I didn’t really have a whole lot going during my high school years. I went to class and did stupid hijinks with my friends, but I mostly just watched movies and played video games. I guess when I write it out… that’s pretty much exactly what I do now, almost fifteen years later. Who says you have to grow up? There wasn’t much excitement during my high school years and I most definitely was not an assassin. That sounds like one of those lines that I would write to try to throw you off my trail, and I really was an elite killing machine that took down yakuza or other high-value targets, all while making sure I wasn’t late to class. I promise you that definitely wasn’t me, but that is definitely the case for Chisato and Mahiro in the new film Baby Assassins by director Yugo Sakamoto.
Chisato (Akari Takaishi) and Mahiro (Saori Izawa) have just graduated high school and the firm they work for, as assassins, is making them get a part-time job to help maintain their cover in the real world. Until now, they have only been responsible for school and killing their mark. The thought of paying rent, utilities, and let alone taxes had never even crossed their minds. Oh, and to top it all off, their firm is forcing them to be roommates. Chisato and Mahiro couldn’t be more different when it comes to their personalities either. Mahiro is the socially awkward teenager that wants nothing more than to sleep, watch videos on her phone, and read manga, while Chisato is the outgoing socialite that can blend into any group of people like she has been there for years. They make a great team as assassins, but being roommates is a whole new challenge. Throw a run in with the yakuza into the mix, and their friendship will truly be put to the test.
The film opens with a rather mundane but witty conversation between Mahiro and a clerk who is hanging out in the back room of a shop. When Mahiro heads out, she is met by several workers who seem to know that she is there to kill them. An absolutely amazing fight explodes through the store. I’ll be upfront about the fact that I am a huge action and martial arts film fan, and I am often very critical of fight scenes. Believe me when I tell you that the choreography and execution of this one blew me away. A problem with so many action films is that they never let you truly see the fight. A punch or a kick will be thrown only to have an edit cut away to another angle of the impact and you never feel like you really saw the fight. Action director Kensuke Sonomura is a veteran in the film industry working on such films as The Machine Girl, Yakuza Weapon, and multiple entries of the Resident Evil video game franchise, and his experience shows. There are moments when everyone is attacking at the same time and it is beautifully choreographed chaos that makes you feel like you are right there with Mahiro.
Baby Assassins clearly has excellent fight sequences, but those are actually pretty sparse throughout the film. The majority of the movie is a story of the relationship between two kids who are trying to figure out how to survive like normal people with a very abnormal job and this is honestly where the film shines. The dialogue between Chisato and Mahiro is witty, but always felt sincere. In teen films like Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or Juno, the dialogue never felt like something that a teenager would say. Worst of all, the dialogue in those films always felt like what a middle-aged person thought a teenager would say and while it didn’t necessarily ruin the films, they never felt authentic. Mahiro is a quiet character, mostly awkward and withdrawn, but Izawa plays her perfectly and I would love to know how much of Mahiro is actually her own personality. The bulk of the storytelling is left to Chisato, as she is the character who has the most luck in trying to find a part-time job, and her character is just really likable, rounded out with odd little quirks that also make her very relatable.
Unfortunately for them, one of their seemingly normal hit jobs happens to be an associate of a yakuza boss (Yasukaze Motomiya) who, along with his son (Satoshi Uekiya), daughter (Mone Akitani), and her daughter’s personal bodyguard (Masanori Mimoto), are now trying to find out who killed their associate. Which eventually leads them to Mahiro and Chisato. Yasukaze Motomiya plays a particularly brutal yakuza boss, who goes from jokingly lighthearted to “stab you in the ear with a chopstick” at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, his children have an amped-up sibling rivalry with hopes to gain their father’s favor.
The whole family has a quirky relationship in their own right, but one of the most notable performances for me is from Mone Akitani. She plays the role with the perfect level of spoiled entitlement that you would expect from someone who grew up as the daughter of a yakuza, but she is still so cold and calculated that I actually viewed her as a threat to the Chisato and Mahiro, especially with her bodyguard, Wantanabe, at her side. Wantanabe (Mimoto) carries the rest of the heavy martial arts load in this film along with Izawa, as the two close out the film with a one on one fight that is easily on par with some of the stunts in the modern martial arts classic The Raid.
Yugo Sakamoto will definitely be on my radar as a director to follow, but I can’t wait to see what the stars of Baby Assassins do next. I am still blown away by just how much charisma Takaishi and Izawa have on screen and their chemistry together feels so natural. Personally, I would love to see these characters again in new stories as the possibilities for this duo are endless. This film is an absolute must-see for fans of action comedies, but martial arts enthusiasts will want to pay close attention to Saori Izawa as she is definitely a rising star. Overall, Baby Assassins is an incredibly heartfelt action comedy that will be sure to become a cult classic.
Baby Assassins was screened as part of the 2021 Fantastic Fest.