Despite the title, Baby Assassins (Beibî Warukyûre) is not about a CIA plot to recruit the homicidal infants from Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive franchise. Nor is it a black comedy about murdering newborns. It’s an Odd Couple-style buddy comedy about two recent high school graduates who also happen to be hit women.
Writer/director Yugo Sakamoto (A Janitor) lets us in on what to expect in the film’s opening. Mahiro’s (Saori Izawa, Snake Eyes, Re: Born) job interview with a particularly obnoxious convenience store manager goes wildly, and violently, off the rails. Why you may ask is an assassin looking for work at a convenience store? Because now that she and fellow assassin Chisato (Akari Takaishi, A Janitor) have graduated high school they’ve been ordered to share an apartment and find some kind of job in order to blend into society.
The problem is that while being polar opposite personalities makes them a good team in the field, it makes them terrible roommates. And, as this begins to drive a wedge between the two, the Yakuza family whose dealers they’ve been eliminating has figured out their identities.
Baby Assassins was one of the films in the SFFF lineup I’d been looking forward to. But by the last day chronic lack of sleep and a noisy hotel room had worn me down to the point I caught some kind of bug and ended up heading home early. Catching up with it by way of a screener now I’m really regretting not seeing it with an audience.
While it may be about professional killers, much of Baby Assassins will be relatable to anyone watching it. Having to interview for a job you know you’ll hate. The problems of juggling multiple job schedules, or having your work life interfere with your personal schedule. And, of course, dealing with an annoying roommate.
By making these kinds of situations the core of the film Sakamoto lets the viewer connect with the characters in a way that films such as No Time to Die or The Raid can’t. A part of us may wish we were James Bond, but a much larger part can emphasize with these two. This means we’re much more invested in the film’s action scenes and ultimately in the characters’ fate.
The trade-off for this is that Baby Assassins has fewer of those action scenes, something that may disappoint viewers attracted by the poster’s gun-totting actresses. But the scenes we do get are energetic and well done. Saori Izawa was part of the stunt crew on the G.I. Joe film Snake Eyes and action director Kensuke Sonomura has worked on everything from I Am a Hero and Godzilla: Final Wars to The Machine Girl and Resident Evil: Vendetta as well as directing the jaw-dropping Hydra.
So when Mashiro and Chisato finally find themselves in the crosshairs of a rival mob led by Masanori Mimoto (Meatball Machine Kodoku, Enter the Fat Dragon) and his psychotic offspring what you get is some high-quality violence marred only by some CGI blood spray.
Part female Odd Couple, part teen comedy and part Yakuza action film Baby Assassins is an unexpected delight and a film that, despite some wonderful reviews from Fantastic Fest, seems to be flying under a lot of people’s radar.
Baby Assassins has been released in its native Japan and has been playing festivals elsewhere. Unfortunately, as far as I know, nobody has picked up the rights to it so far although I can’t imagine that won’t change, (WellGo USA are you listening?), and soon. There is a website and Facebook page, both in Japanese, that you and Google Translate can check for updates.