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Fantastic Fest Review: Actresses Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa Slay as Titular Protagonists in “Baby Assassins 2”

The struggle to survive emotionally-charged, physically demanding situations can often become easier with the introduction of humor. That has certainly driven the success of the action comedy film genre, especially when they include mismatched protagonists.

The new martial arts-driven action comedy, Baby Assassins 2, the sequel to the hit 2021 feature Baby Assassins, is one such alluring slacker comedy with some extreme action beats. Writer-director Yugo Sakamoto and lead actresses Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa returned to the franchise to make Baby Assassins 2, after they worked on the first movie. The trio once again elevates the standard for thrilling and hilarious slacker action-comedies with their latest collaboration.

Set two years after their epic quarrel with the Assassin Guild and a brutal killer in the first film, Baby Assassins 2 follows the titular killers, Chisato (Takaishi) and Mahiro (Izawa), as they’re still living together as roommates, despite their contradictory personalities. The excessively cutesy and excitable Chisato discovers they haven’t paid their gym membership in approximately four years, which causes panic in them both.

The last payment they made to the gym was when they first joined on a whim in high school, in order to get into shape for the guild. They haven’t gone back since, and now their years of overdue fees must be paid before they lose their membership in the Assassin Guild.

As a result, Chisato and her punch first, ask questions later partner must settle their debts or incur another late penalty. The girls’ frantic journey to resolve their bill leads on a wacky but equally comical journey. While trying to send a last-minute payment to the gym, the assassins’ bank is taken hostage, and they miss the deadline.

As a result, Chisato and Mahiro must give up their preferred, easygoing lifestyle of enjoying food binges between executing their big-money targets. With all their money spent on elaborate sweets, the pair are forced to take part-time jobs while waiting to be reinstated by the Assassin Guild as hired killers.

The girls face further conflict when a duo of determined brother assassins — Makoto (Tatsuomi Hamada) and Yuri (Joey Iwanaga) — who want to steal their spot in the Assassin Guild begin targeting them. The girls take whatever means necessary in order to survive.

Action comedies often thrive on their ability of creating genuine emotional tension between their stunt work and humorous gags. However, Baby Assassins 2 instead largely appeals to both fans of its predecessor and series newcomers through the absurdity of its entire plot. Takaishi and Izawa once again highlight Chisato and Mahiro’s commitment to carrying out the Assassin Guild’s physically challenging – and possibly lethal – missions for them, mainly so that they can get paid.

The actresses also maintain the spirit of the original film’s toned down emotional tension and lack of true moral quandary by focusing on the protagonists’ lighthearted nature. They spend almost as much time in amusing, engaging action sequences as gorging on a variety of food, from pasta to elaborate desserts.

Despite its deviance from other action comedies, Baby Assassins 2 still thrives in its approach to serving as a quirky character dissection. While it features fewer action set pieces than movies like Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes For Us, Sakamoto’s latest feature still keeps the characters’ adrenaline pumping. Whether Chisato and Mahiro are running to the bank to pay their bill before it’s due because they continuously procrastinate, or take on jobs as lottery vendor spokespeople in animal suits when they’re suspended from the Assassin’s Guild, they amusingly show that they don’t think about long-term consequences.

Like in the first film, Takaishi and Izawa once again have effortless chemistry as their unique but equally relatable protagonists in the new sequel. The dynamic actresses are synchronized as co-stars, whether they’re telling jokes or engaged in tandem combat. The duo’s free-spirited bond infuses the franchise’s dangerous world of assassins with charm when they’re dispatched to kill their dangerous opponents.

The protagonists’ physicality was crafted by another series veteran, action choreographer Kensuke Sonomura, who also worked on the stunts for the original movie. His work once again brilliantly takes advantage of the space the scenes take place in, as well as the performers’ physicalities and abilities.

Standout action sequences in the follow-up include when the girls frantically but nonchalantly react when they initially realize they have to pay their massive gym debt while in their shared apartment. Another standout action sequence follows the girls as they’re prancing around in their animal costumes for their new part-time lottery jobs, which quickly turns into a fun but compelling brawl between them.

Besides their stellar portrayals of Sonomura‘s stuntwork, the actresses once again play well off of each other in their characters’ bombastic and drastically different personalities. Takaishi once again plays Chisato as bubbly and goofy, while Izawa plays Mahiro as more sedate and sensible.

While Chisato and Mahiro serve as the feature’s protagonists, Baby Assassins 2 is ultimately an ensemble comedy, and the rest of the cast is equally strong in their comedic and physical performances. Hamada and Iwanaga also portray Makoto and Yuri as being just as likable a pair, despite their ambition to take over the girls’ spots in the Assassin Guild.

Baby Assassins 2 relentlessly fights to prove its worth as a comedically stellar, exhilarating action-packed feature that needs to be seen on as big of a screen as possible. As with the franchise’s first installment, Izawa and Takaishi slay in their performances as they struggle with their day jobs while scheming to be accepted back into the Assassin Guild.

Both actresses once again perfectly take their protagonists’ over-the-top humor and Sonomura‘s awe-inspiring fight choreography to even greater heights in the sequel. They do so by channeling realistic, relatable millennial existentialism, including questioning their worth at their jobs and where they belong in overall society, into the everyday lives of the film’s low-level assassins.

Overall: B+

Baby Assassins 2 had its U.S. premiere on September 21 during Fantastic Fest 2023.

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the film. 

Karen Benardello
Karen Benardello
As a life-long fan of films and television shows, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic in 2008. Karen has since been working in the press in New York City, including interviewing film and television casts and crews, writing movie and television news articles and reviewing films and televisions series. Some of her highlights include attending such local events as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival and New York Comic-Con, as well as traveling across North America to attend such festivals as the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW and the Toronto International Film Festival. She has been a member of the Women Film Critics Circle since 2012, and the New York Film Critics Online since 2019.


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