Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Baby Assassins

Sometimes, on-the-job training is better career prep than advanced course work. Murder-for-hire colud be one of those vocations. It seems to suit Chisato Sugimoto and Mahiro Fukagawa, despite their conflicting Odd Couple personalities. They are compatible professionally, but their employer also insists they room together in Yugo (Hugo) Sakamoto’s high body-count comedy Baby Assassins, which releases today on VOD.

Sugimoto is cute and bubbly, whereas Fukigawa is a withdrawn self-avowed sociopath. Together, they have a knack for killing, but holding down their company-mandated part-time cover jobs is a different story, especially for Fukigawa. Unfortunately, their latest target was Yakuza-connected, which displeases the boss, Ippei Hamaoka. Only he should be able to kill his people. As part of his female-centric makeover of his gang, Hamaoka instructs his daughter Himari to find and eliminate the killers.

Eventually, matters escalate into a full-blown war between the Yakuza and the two clueless high school grads. However, it is more likely the two roommates will kill each other before Hamaoka’s enforcers can get their act together. This is a comedy, but Sakamoto is not fooling around when it comes to the action. There are some brutal, no-holds-barred fight scenes and plenty of headshot-style executions. It almost feels like a Miike film, but it is lighter, leaner, and more down-to-business focused.

Akari Takaishi is bizarrely charming and charismatic in what could be a star-making role, as Sugimoto. On the other hand, Saori Izawa is so withdrawn and reserved as Fukigawa, she just gets overshadowed. However, Yasukaze Motomiya is hilarious as the semi-woke Yakuza chairman and Mone Akitani makes a worthy rival to Sugimoto, as his ambitious daughter. Plus, Tsubasa Tobinaga should be cast in a Japanese workplace sitcom, based on the laughs he gets as Susano, the roommate-assassins’ straight-faced corporate handler.

Sakamoto keeps things moving along at a gallop, despite taking time-outs to lampoon Japanese maid cafes and teen culture. It really raises the stakes on a film like
Violet & Daisy (which was better than critics generally made it out to be). Recommended for the serious carnage and goofy humor (the two are scrupulously kept separate), Baby Assassins releases today (8/16) on VOD.