July 29, 2022 Baby Assassins (Movie Review)
Had enough of streaming services? Too bad, here is another one! HI-YAH! is a new one devoted to martial arts films. The new Action Comedy Baby Assassins will debut exclusively on the service on July 22, 2022. Anyone not on the service will have to wait until August 16th to buy it digitally or on DVD or Blu-ray through Well Go USA Entertainment.
Directed by Yugo Sakamoto (Hangman’s Knot 2017. Grave of Love 2020), the film follows two graduate hitwomen: Chisato (Akari Takaishi: Tetsuota Michiko, 20,000 Kilo 2022, Distant Thunder 2022) and Mahiro (Saori Izawa: Manhunt 2017, Snake Eyes 2021). Killing is what they do best, so they are not happy when they have to pose as roommates and get civilian jobs as cover. After a bad run-in with the Yakuza, the two will have to get used to each other quick if they want to survive against the criminal hordes.
The film is subtitled, so viewers will have to keep their eyes glued to the screen. Luckily that isn’t difficult as it picks up the pace quickly. It’s a slice-of-life with literal slices, as the women’s hits cross over with their jobs, serving dishes combined with serving punishment. They may be good at killing, yet they have trouble making a living Takaishi and Izawa’s characters bounce off of each other quite well too. Izawa’s Mahiro is gruff, intellectual, yet prone to daydreaming. While Takaishi’s Chisato is an impulsive space case with eccentric food tastes (“Oden with bread? That’s crazy”). They are like a classic odd couple, but with fight choreography. The film would be worth watching for their dialogue alone.
Then the Yakuza come along, and it takes the family part literally as they are headed by a dad flanked by his son Kazuki and daughter Himari. It is like they came out of a twisted sitcom, as Kazuki rags on Himari, and the dad stands up for one or the other with one comparison or another. Like saying the Yakuza should have a place for women. It would be adorable if murder and other crimes weren’t involved.
Still, it has its oddities, though some are more nitpicky than others. The film goes for a Tarantino-esque out-of-order structure, where the middle of the film is told first, then the title card pops up after 20 minutes to lead to the beginning. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though the segments are not as clearly defined as, say, 1994’s Pulp Fiction. It is just a skewed timeline.
The subtitles have a noticeable number of typos. Not enough to muddle what the actors are saying, but enough to raise an eyebrow or two. More seriously, the film is more comedy than action. There are only two hand-to-hand fight scenes, with one being more of a traditional, martial arts bout, and the other being an all-out brawl. The rest of the action relies more on gunplay and short stunts as punchlines. They work for what they are, though it might not scratch that itch for swinging punches and kicks.
The film is great at character interaction, though not so hot on the story. It is an action film, so a heavy narrative is not necessarily required to make it great. However, it does mean there is not much under the hood beyond its premise and characters. There are great scenes showing how Chisato and Mahiro click together, and how the Yakuza family work. Narrative-wise, the thread that ties them all together starts off thin and gets thinner to the point where the final act feels more contrived than natural.
Still, that does not make Baby Assassins terrible. The comedy is grimly hilarious overall, featuring some strong character work from the leads in particular. While the action is brief, it is executed effectively and enjoyably with solid direction. It is worth getting a free trial to Hi-YAH! to see it. Viewers just need to be aware that it owes more to Scorsese and Takeshi Kitano than Golden Harvest. Less kung-fu and more (occasional) gun-kata, and it is good at what it does. That is why Cryptic Rock gives Baby Assassins 4 out of 5 stars.