by Well Go USA
Review by Roy Frumkes
Two silly sociopaths are forced by their superiors to team up as partners in crime and roommates as well, and though it seems unlikely that any high-level death brokers would entrust these two young misfits with any job, even a menial one, such are the twists and turns we’re asked to accept on faith in this 2021 narrative.
Saori Izawa is a merciless bleach-blonde killer who extracts no joy from anything she does, neither murderous nor social. We meet her applying for a job at a video store where, losing patience with the man interviewing her, she does him in, then proceeds to take on everyone in the establishment…apparently in her mind.
Saori’s mismatched roommate/partner in the assassination business, Akari Takaishi, is her complete physical and emotional opposite for the purpose of making this partly an amusing ‘buddy’ film. She, unlike her partner, is a chatterbox who takes idiotic (and eventually off-putting) joy from everything she does and sees, whether dispatching a target at a fast-food restaurant, or just bursting into unwarranted laughter at some human foible that we are not privy to. She’s alabaster pretty, whereas Saori, grim and unwashed-looking, appears not to have availed herself of a makeup person during the entire shoot, probably so that we can constantly be reminded of her glum point of view of the world.
The title is misleading. They’re not babies, nor do they even seem like high school grads (Saori is 28, Akari, 19). The Blu-ray release cover uses the quote “Absolutely stellar fight sequences” but there are only two fight scenes, one in act one, and one in act three, and the fight in act one is more of a brawl than a fight. However, although I didn't enjoy act two nearly enough, the climactic fight scene designed by Kensuke Sonomura is remarkable. If you are a devotee of such scenes – DARKER THAN AMBER, NIGHT AND THE CITY, SHANE, THE SPOILERS, THE BIG COUNTRY and any number of them by Jet Li, Bruce Lee, and Jackie Chan, then this one justifies keeping the disc whether you find the middle to be problematic or not. Saori’s opponent is introduced earlier, but we have no inkling of his relentless viciousness and strength. The fight is memorable, doubtless enhanced by the fact that Izawa is a former stunt person.
Considering today’s digital cinematography, it would have been relatively easy to make every shot striking and beautiful, but director Sakamoto wanted something less glamorous, at times almost bland. Perhaps he was suggesting the boredom with which the blonde killer perceives the world around her.
In a lesser but standout role, playing a dangerous Yakuza, Yasukaze Motomiya lends gravitas to the ongoing narrative. He’s got a great face, appears taller than his 6’1”, looms over whatever scene he is in, and provides considerable menace when the film requires an energy boost. He’s had a long, busy film career, lately in Japanese series TV.
An interesting aside: Had director Sakamoto seen the Coen Bros film FARGO some time before embarking on this project? I’d have to guess in the affirmative. In that film, two mismatched kidnapper/assassins are directed and scripted for laughs mixed with constant tension. The one played by Steve Buscemi doesn’t bear much in common with Akari, but Peter Stormare is a Caucasian dead-ringer for Saori. He sports a bleach-blonde hair style, almost never talks, always radiates anger, takes no enjoyment from his ill deeds, and seems ready at a moment’s notice to dispatch his chatty partner in crime. He’s just a tad too similar to be coincidental.
It is a film industry truism that moviegoers will forgive a weak first act if there is a strong third one. BABY ASSASSINS is an example that proves the point. Not that the film is ever terrible, but it rises to a gratifying height in the last fifteen minutes.