Kill ‘Em with Laughter
Nowadays, action-comedy is beyond oversaturated. The genre has always been a popular market in the film industry and a pretty safe choice. After the onslaught of Marvel superhero films, most people have become sick and tired of the already tired genre. Baby Assassins, however, manages to change this. Fortunately, no babies were harmed in the making of this film, despite the title. Instead, the film follows two girls straight out of high school as they try to balance a normal life while working as assassins. Yugo Sakamoto directed and wrote this flawed gem, with Saori Izawa and Askari Takaishi in the lead roles.
For better or worse, the plot is all over the place, with the story often taking random turns just to keep the audience on their toes. Initially, this may seem off-putting, but it actually makes sense upon a second watch. The entire premise of the film is two girls barely out of high school who can essentially get away with murder. So whenever something happens out of nowhere, it feels earned in a way. This also leaves viewers constantly wondering what direction the film will end up taking. While this can be frustrating in most films, this is where the film’s comedy excels, as the film will set up viewer expectations but suddenly take a 90 degree turn into an unexpected punch line from an earlier set up. The two leads are unpredictable and the plot is meant to show this.
The story takes place in Japan, which feels surprisingly underutilized for comedy. While the “unique” side of Japan is often portrayed in the media, the overly straight-laced and conformist side is less seen. This more serious side would’ve served as a great juxtaposition to the crazier moments in the film. Instead, the film’s leads are often forced to share the screen with characters just as wacky and crazy as they are. While this isn’t detrimental, it’s still wasted potential with what feels like competition between characters. With every character being equally crazy, it’s harder for them to stand out and work off of one another.
A Thin Line Between Comedy and Cringe
Even with normal comedy films, it’s easy for a joke to fail its landing and come off as cringe. Comedy is subjective, so even a well-crafted joke can fall flat depending on the crowd. Take into consideration that this is a Japanese film made with a Japanese audience in mind, so there’s an added cultural component to the humor present in the film. As a result, there are definitely some painfully corny jokes and scenes which just miss their mark entirely. One such moment is when they introduce the initial antagonist, an ex yakuza. When they first introduce him, they try to make him seem crazy and unhinged in a funny way, but it just comes off as corny. It ends up giving Joker vibes with how hard they try to make him seem crazy. There are a few scenes like this where they introduce a new character in a way that makes them seem corny.
Despite the aforementioned cringe, there are plenty of funny moments that do land their mark. For example, there’s a scene where two yakuza types walk into a maid cafe. They’re then forced to read off of the menu, which is filled with cute sounding names. This also goes to show that these comedic bits are more likely to hit their mark when they’re coupled with such juxtaposition. A majority of the characters in this film are already “out there,” so putting them in contrasting environments serves to highlight their personality. The payoff from such moments is often enough to make up for the rest of the cringe throughout the film.
Choreography & Design
The best is saved for last. It wouldn’t be an action-comedy without any action. The action here is mainly shoot-outs and close quarters combat. Sadly, there are no crazy explosions or car chases, but that also means that there isn’t as much ugly CGI. The fight scenes are breathtaking to say the least, with one of the leads being an actual stunt woman. Saori Izawa makes light work of her stunts despite her on-screen opponents being twice her size. The fighting involves a mix of grappling and striking and the use of weapons. There isn’t an obnoxious amount of cuts present like in other modern action films, so the fights flow together more cohesively. One important thing to note is that despite being an action-comedy, this film leans more towards comedy, with segments of action being sprinkled here and there. The fight scenes that are present, however, are all of high quality. The last fight scene of the entire movie actually manages to make up for that. The last scene switches from frantic gunplay to hand-to-hand combat for the respective leads.
On a side note, an element of the film that is equally as amazing as the choreography is the costume design. While Japan has always maintained a special reputation with fashion in general, the costume design is not eye-catching but also fitting for most of the characters. Izawa’s character, for example, is antisocial and hates going outside, so most of the time she’s wearing pajamas. This is a set-up for later on in the film where she is forced to wear a maid outfit.
Baby Assassins is far from being the best in any specific category. Not enough of the jokes land for it to be considered a great comedy, and as good as the action is, there’s not enough of it to judge it off that alone. It is, however, one of the few modern action-comedies that can be watched without immediately getting tired. It’s a fun experience that avoids taking itself too seriously. Baby Asassins is currently streaming on Amazon Prime with a sequel having already been released in March 2023.
Baby Assassins (2021) Official Trailer