Low-fi Japanese indie flick that is bookended by some serious fight action, ‘Baby Assassins’ is a blast of funny action feels. Buoyed by the charm of its leads Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa, the two play Chisato and Mahiro respectively, recent high school graduates attempting to find their place in the world when circumstances mean they must move in and live together. Oh, and they just happen to be highly skilled assassins. Employed by a mysterious organization, the two take out various scumbags and Yakuza douchebags with deadly efficiency and surprising nonchalance. Experts at stealthy killing, Chisato and Mahiro aren’t quite as good at everyday life. Struggling to hold down part-time regular jobs (as part of their cover) the duo bumble through various learning-to-be-adults-in-the-normal-world scenarios while balancing their responsibilities as deadly killers. Normal life threatens to upend the pair and their friendship but when one of their recent kills brings the attention of an unhinged and vengeance-seeking Yakuza family, Chisato and Mahiro must put their differences aside and go to war with an army of merciless Japanese gangsters.
Thankfully living up to its buzzing word of mouth, ‘Baby Assassins’ is fresh, funny and often times silly knockabout fun. Yugo Sakamoto breathes life into the assassin genre, framing everything with a very 90s indie movie vibe with the added bonus of some stellar fight action. While the two leads are badass killers the film is less about their particular set of skills and kill missions and much more about them finding their place in the world and with one another. After a dynamic opening featuring some super fight action, proceedings chill out as Chisato and Mahiro attempt to navigate the everyday world. Not in a rush to get anywhere, the vibe and pace are mellow, as the leads go from one disastrous part-time job to the next. While double tapping someone to the head or engaging in furious fight combat comes easily to them, Chisato and Mahiro aren’t so good in the waitressing/working in grocery stores jobs they keep either getting fired or quit from.
Plus, living together isn’t going so smoothly either as jealousy, social anxiety, young person lethargy and sharing the same space all take their toll. However, the two exude a lot of charm as much of the film’s enjoyment comes from the two just hanging out, cooking/eating, and talking crap with one another. While the flick does feature some dark kills and ferocious fight action, ‘Baby Assassins’ is much more a chilled and often funny look at the two young women trying to find their place in the modern Japanese world. It’s a vibe that may turn some off as the action mainly bookends the film and coherence and structure aren’t really Yugo Sakamoto’s priority. However, Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa are great company (though some may find Akari Takaishi’s OTT mugging/shouting a little grating!) and when the action does arrive it’s fantastic. Handled by Kensuke Sonomura (‘Manhunt’, ‘Hydra’) the kinetic fights scenes are fast and brutal with Saori Izawa showcasing herself to be a gifted fighter. The end fight is a doozy.
Throw in a little social commentary about the difficulties of young people trying to get into the Japanese workforce (there’s some scathing commentary on Maid Cafes and how soul crushing they are!) and an edge that often tips into darkness when the Yakuza characters show their dark side, ‘Baby Assassins’ may not be what you’re expecting (or for everyone) but it’s a fun, low key ride with charm, laughs and great fight action.