Baby Assassins


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Baby Assassins
"This is a delight. From me it drew outpourings of laughter as sharp and as bright as the splashes of blood from a punctured neck." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

Baby Assassins is a gleeful bit of nonsense, and for all its inventive and well executed bloodshed it's also a well observed comedy about very early adulthood. The perils and problems of flat-sharing and service industry jobs are only magnified when you might have accidentally left a pistol magazine in the washing machine. With a few recurring themes, including a ringtone piano version of Wagner's Walkurenritt, its episodic nature puts it in the company of works like TV sitcom Spaced or Reservoir Dogs.

Writer/Director Yugo Sakamoto has also created a parallel "making of gone wrong" mockumentary Legendary Hit-man, Kunioka which is in effect a comedy of errors about his research into the underworld to inform this comedy of ennui set in and around a (doubly?) fictionalised underworld. While the fight scenes owe a debt to John Wick which include what I believe to be wholly CG muzzle flash and firing, the cleaning services at the Baby Assassins behest are much less respectful. Quite a bit more expensive too.

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Chisato (Akari Takaishi) and Mahiro (Saori Izawa) both work for the same agency, and have worked with and for Sakamoto before on A Janitor. That, and you may sense a theme here, is about a janitor who works as an assassin in a shadowy underworld. It's not just in volume of output that I was minded of both "Beat" Takeshi Kitano and Takeshi Miike, this is similarly willing to mix modes to great effect. "goofs" in the credits reminded me too of the work of Jackie Chan and all three are excellent bellweathers for whether you'd enjoy this film.

It's got an extended fight in a convenience store. It's got oden soup. It's got cat videos. It's got a cake-cam. It's got a machine gun! Well, a Heckler & Koch MP5 family submachinegun, but nonetheless. While its terminological description of one of the few firearms with a silhouette as recognisable as the AK-47 is perhaps less accurate than some of the firing, it's born of enthusiasm. An enthusiasm that's carried through not just in the action on-screen but the practises of film-making.

There's an extended fight that includes a point-of-view shot that has a hand over it as the fighter does. This in a battle where positioning, intent, focus are always clear, indeed, vital to its satisfying denouement. It's a proper bit of combat choreography, and as overblown as its sound effects are it resists the temptation to bring us the violence of a thousand cuts. More wounding than some of the stabbings, however, is the unease when two Yakuza visit a maid café. Their participation in the rituals of iced coffee and omelette ordering is made even more unsettling by the choice to render the mixture of honorifics attached to the gang's oyabun as 'daddy'. Shades of Ray Winstone in Scum, and that's even before an attempt is made to write 'code of conduct' (probably ninkyodo) in letters of ketchup.

There are some oddities, I suspect that a line subtitled as "you're a lifesaver" was actually "thank you senpai" but it's a tiny issue in a film full of small observations. Anyone who's had a flatmate will know the pain of trying to get someone else ready to go out, and that's without them forgetting where they hid their gun. There's no end of moral abandon but the most consequential law-breaking is probably in relation to bicycle parking.

This is a delight. From me it drew outpourings of laughter as sharp and as bright as the splashes of blood from a punctured neck. Amongst its murders a mystery, one solved by a clue that would make Sherlock Holmes sniff with approval. Though since we the audience know who did it the puzzle is more in the vein of Columbo than anything else, the circling inevitability of Michael Mann's Heat only the antagonists are all high school age Japanese girls from widely different fashion groups. Its cast are not only convincing in their physicality (Izawa has stunt credits for a few films, including GI Joe Origins: Snake Eyes) but also in their friendship.

It's a corporate diktat that means Chisato and Mahiro have to set up home together but that sort of thing has given us The Odd Couple, The Apartment, American Ultra, Fight Club. If that seems a slightly discongruent melange then fair enough, it's the same for the film. What brings the disparate elements of misodengaku together isn't just being in the same stock, but time and heat together. Baby Assassins does just that, even if its flavour profile is distinct enough that one of the Baby Assassins can accuse the other of 'spihara', Spicy Food Harassment. This is something to savour, even to slurp.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2022
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Baby Assassins packshot
Chisato and Mahilo are two high school girls who are about to graduate. They also happen to both be highly skilled assassins. When the organisation they work for orders them to share a room, the relationship between turns sour.

Director: Yugo Sakamoto

Writer: Yugo Sakamoto

Starring: Yukina Fukushima, Saori Izawa, Saori Izawa, Masamori Mimoto

Year: 2021

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Japan

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If you like this, try:

Battle Royale
A Clockwork Orange
Free Fire