Films marrying action with comedy are nothing new, and it’s a formula that works for everything from mismatched buddy cop flicks to Hong Kong romps starring Jackie Chan. 2021 saw the arrival of a new take on the action/comedy as Baby Assassins (made my list of 2021’s best action films!) paired a very funny slacker comedy with some blistering action beats. It’s an odd mix as dryly comic conversations and calm lulls give way occasionally to shootouts and brutal fist fights, but the damn thing works beautifully as a whole because those individual halves do too. Writer/director Yugo Sakamoto returns for Baby Assassins 2 alongside the first film’s stars, and they’ve once again delivered the gold standard for bloody and hilarious slacker action/comedies.
Two years after their big dust up with the Assassin Guild and a brutal killer, Chisato (Akari Takaishi) and Mahiro (Saori Izawa) are once more finding their lazy lifestyle in jeopardy. It seems the pair joined a gym five years ago, went once, and never gave it a second thought, but when an enormous bill comes due the pair discover they’re deep in debt with few ways out. A guild suspension doesn’t help, and soon the young killers are forced to take part-time jobs and eat cheaper foods than they’re accustomed to. Life’s rough, but it soon gets rougher when two other wannabe assassins set their sights on the pair in the hopes of taking their spot in the Guild.
The premise is far simpler this time out, but Baby Assassins 2 still keeps things moving with fun banter and a handful of highly entertaining action beats. After starting his career with somewhat grimmer fare in 2017, Sakamoto’s shift into more comedic work has paid off with a burgeoning franchise that I hope goes on for many more installments. It’s no exaggeration to call these slacker comedies as Chisato and Mahiro are the epitome of the term — couch potatoes with little interest in work, a voracious appetite for food, and minimal ambition for the future.
The pair’s banter shifts effortlessly from various exclamations on the foods they love to the social politics behind restaurant pricing, and their disinterest in all things serious is endlessly evident. One early sequence sees them rush to make a payment at the bank only for the bank to get held up, and it’s not until their deadline is threatened that they step up and clean house. Stress and hunger increase later to the point that a job that has them prancing around in animal costumes quickly devolves into a fun but hard-hitting brawl between the costumed characters while families look on.
The bubbly, goofy Takaishi and the more sedate Izawa are once again a match made in movie heaven, an odd couple given a modern, young adult twist that’s universal in its reality. Some of the comedy leans broad, something not uncommon in Japanese comedies, but the bulk of it lands through sharp, quick-witted deliveries and performances. Baby Assassins 2 is ultimately an ensemble, and the rest of the cast is equally strong on the comedic front with an eclectic group of managers, cleaners, and fellow killers. The two guys vying for our girls’ spots, Makoto (Tatsuomi Hamada) and Yuri (Joey Iwanaga), are a likable pair, charismatic in their ambition and conversations, and rather than view them as villains it’s hard not to see them as entertaining casualties.
As funny as the film is, the antics won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but you’d be a fool not to enjoy the action beats. Like the first film, they’re spread out with the best landing in the film’s third act. While Takaishi sticks to gunplay and fights with editing help, Izawa remains one of Japan’s top action stars in my eyes as she’s a blistering beast in a compact frame. She’s almost always shorter than her fight counterparts, but her fighting style is lightning quick and scrappy as hell. This will be blasphemy to some, but she reminds me of Donnie Yen at times — fists up, bobs and weaves, uppercuts, and some masterful grappling make her fights thrilling and charismatic.
Action choreographer Kensuke Sonomura returns as well, and his work is once again brilliant in the way it takes advantage of space and fighter size. See anything he works on, but make a real point of seeking out his two directorial efforts, Hydra (2019) and Bad City (2022), as they’re both fantastic tales highlighted by stellar fight sequences.
If there’s a relative downside to Baby Assassins 2, it’s that Sakamoto is clearly once again working with a minimal budget. Both these movies are small, a big reason why the action scenes are relatively sparse, but don’t let that be a turn off. The comedy is legitimately funny as Chisato and Mahiro’s relationship offers conflicts and bonding beats a plenty, and hearing them talk about food while eating food becomes a joy in itself. And not for nothing, but the fantastically good final fight also includes a beat that will have you cheering and applauding for days afterward. Seek out both Baby Assassin movies — they’re short and can be enjoyed as one hell of an entertaining double feature of slacker laughs and brutal beatdowns.