Studio: Dread Presents
Director: Rob Grant
Writer: Rob Grant, Mike Kovac
Producer: Michael Peterson, Kurtis David Harder, Julian Black Antelope
Stars: Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, Christopher Gray, Brett Gelman
Three friends discover their dynamic is built on startling secrets and lies after they become hopelessly stranded at sea.
There¡¯s nothing like being stranded at sea aboard a small boat for testing the extremes to which a group dynamic can be stressed. Sunburn and starvation certainly don¡¯t help. Neither does a harpoon- I mean spear gun, pointed at someone¡¯s stomach.
Temperamental trust fund troublemaker Richard put his fed-up girlfriend Sasha and vanilla best buddy Jonah in this situation. A day trip out on the ocean was Richard¡¯s way of apologizing for hastily using his fists to nearly cave-in Jonah¡¯s face over a suspected affair with Sasha. Ironically, Richard¡¯s suspicion turned out to be on the money, although it took a contentious confrontation at sea to bring out the truth.
That¡¯s only the first tipped domino turning these former friends into mortal enemies. More revelations continue to inspire hands around throats and angry slashes with glass shards. Sooner or later, someone may end up murdering someone else, if the unquenchable thirst, cannibal cravings, and gangrenous wound infections don¡¯t kill everyone first.
It¡¯s been three days since I watched ¡°Harpoon.¡± Typically, I only take that kind of time to stew on thematically intricate or otherwise complex movies, e.g. ¡°Midsommar¡± (review here) or ¡°Parasite.¡±
In ¡°Harpoon¡¯s¡± case, I just couldn¡¯t come up with words that artfully articulated its frenzied funniness, kooky character breakdowns, and surprising bursts of bloody action. In the end I realized I was overthinking the film¡¯s clever simplicity. A short and sweet take suffices for a short, sometimes savage, but start-to-finish entertaining endeavor such as ¡°Harpoon.¡±
To start with, go ahead and add ¡°Harpoon¡± to the shortlist of exemplary efforts of indie filmmaking efficiency. The stranded boat, cramped though it may be for a ¡°yacht,¡± makes for a great single location setting that doesn¡¯t feel boringly confining or like a budgetary copout. You know, like when a grassroots production has access to an old home and writes a routine haunted house movie only because it¡¯s quick and easy. ¡°Harpoon¡¯s¡± limitations are integrated into its setup, and the camera always finds new corners to nestle into without cinematography ever appearing like it¡¯s struggling.
¡°Harpoon¡± also excels as an enjoyable ¡°hangout¡± movie. Initial appearances might imply 82 minutes with this backstabbing bunch could chart a course for interminable annoyance. Not even close. Thanks to tiptop casting, the trio comes across as unexpectedly endearing even when they¡¯re selfishly conniving.
Munro Chambers, Emily Tyra, and Christopher Gray all melt into their roles. Biting dialogue spryly zips out of their lips often. Never to the point of seeming staged like a comedy duo¡¯s routine or as though they overly rehearsed and are timing to their cues either. Sharp editing adds to the effect of these people being longtime friends whose brutal barbs organically derive from their situation, not from a script.
Pressed to pick a favorite, I¡¯d cite Christopher Gray as the standout. He plays a prep school bully sort of guy, although Gray expertly reins in stereotypical traits to avoid being a completely despicable or completely dumb douche. Gray builds Richard with a good blend of brawn, buffoonery, even brains to create someone multifaceted enough to match the equally effective characterizations of Jonah and Sasha.
Jonah, Sasha, and certainly Richard did enough to earn the miserable cruelty that piles on as each day passes without hope of rescue. But you only root for them to keep going through the wringer because it¡¯s so fun to watch, not because you want to see them suffer. New wrinkles bring new revelations. Each revelation readjusts your allegiances and perspective regarding what everyone rightfully deserves as punishment.
¡°Harpoon¡± moves nimbly, packing in gags via Brett Gelman narrations that amusingly butt into freeze frames with backstory gobs so exposition doesn¡¯t drag on momentum. It¡¯s a preferable alternative to awkwardly working necessary information into unnatural conversations. The slight hint of arrogant omnipotence in Gelman¡¯s voice suits the conceit, and the movie¡¯s general mood perfectly.
Occasional lulls break up the whip-crack pace. Then again, those lulls coincide with the trio going a week without food and water, so it¡¯s understandable for energy levels to hit a few lows. Outside of these slower moments following a sugar rush crash, the only other obstacle to tuning into the gleefully wicked tone would be the personalities potentially rubbing a viewer the wrong way.
Otherwise, ¡°Harpoon¡± speeds along as an outstanding dark comedy that definitely emphasizes the dark. It¡¯s humorous, yet vaguely realistic since it doesn¡¯t go hog wild on being batsh*t insane. I don¡¯t have any more flowery flair for describing it other than to simply say it¡¯s a great ¡®merry mean streak¡¯ movie whose laughs, twists, and acting are overwhelmingly satisfying.
Review Score: 85