Loose Lips Sink Ships: Harpoon (2019)

“Harpoon” gleefully flees from the shadow of its overly simplistic premise, by providing a sharp-witted and gruesome dark comedy.

“It’s a speargun, not a harpoon.”

The above quote from the film encapsulates Harpoon‘s steadfast commitment to its dark comedy roots. No matter how dire things may seem for our beleaguered cast, ample room is made for laughs at their expense. And laugh, you shall. Harpoon is a no-nonsense dark comedy thriller that delivers exactly what it promises, along with a surprise or two.

Sandra Bullock won the Oscar and the Golden Raspberry (for worst film) in the same weekend. She collected both.

Written and directed by Rob Grant, Harpoon follows three friends setting sail for a day cruise. This impromptu trip serves as penance for Ritchie (Christopher Gray) almost beating Jonah (Munro Chambers) to death. Moments after this bloody and explosive confrontation, a film reel-styled intermission abruptly interrupts the action. This is only the first of such interruptions. These segments are narrated by Brett Gelman (Stranger Things) and provide the audience with hilarious and vital exposition regarding our protagonists.

"Schindler's List." During production, the atmosphere was so grim and depressing that Steven Spielberg asked his friend Robin Williams if he could tell some jokes and do comedy sketches while Spielberg would watch episodes of Seinfeld (1989). Some of Williams' sketches, while played through the speaker phone to the cast and crew, ended up being part of dialogue material for his character in Aladdin (1992), the Genie.

Ritchie is an entitled snob who is prone to fits of rage, which is evident from the first scene. Jonah is a wimp who feels as if the world is against him. Sasha (Emily Tyra) is Ritchie’s reluctant girlfriend and a close friend of Jonah’s.

This powder keg of personalities and secrets is primed, and slowly but surely the fuse of their combustible oceanic retreat is lit. The potential to devolve into complete chaos is most definitely on the horizon. As secrets begin to emerge, the trio succumbs to paranoia and their friendship morphs into a bloody game of cat and mouse.

"The Theory Of Everything." Eddie Redmayne met with Stephen Hawking only once before filming. "In the three hours I spent with him, he said maybe eight sentences," recalls Redmayne. "I just didn't feel like I could ask him intimate things." Therefore, he found other ways to prepare for the role. He lost about 15 pounds and trained for four months with a dancer to learn how to control his body. He met with 40 ALS patients, kept a chart tracking the order in which Hawking's muscles declined, and stood in front of a mirror for hours on end, contorting his face. Lastly, he remained motionless and hunched over between takes, so much so that an osteopath told him he had altered the alignment of his spine. "I fear I'm a bit of a control freak," Redmayne admits. "I was obsessive. I'm not sure it was healthy."

Rob Grant’s no-nonsense, you get what you see approach to storytelling makes for an engagingly brisk thriller.

While you can see the trajectory and consequences of events a mile away, you’re either laughing too hard or wincing at its gruesomeness to let it bother you.

Given the bloody twists and turns, I was constantly surprised to find how often I was laughing out loud. Between the sharply playful banter and Gelman’s periodic monologues, this is a film that surprises with its quality laughs.

More importantly, though, its humor never outstays its welcome and evolves with the protagonist’s situation.

"Forrest Gump." Tom Hanks was not paid for this film. Instead, he took percentage points which ultimately netted him in the region of forty million dollars.

“Oh, we’re out of drinking water? Why not an entire scene debating whether or not to use seagull’s blood as a means of hydration?”

As you can see, this idyllic cruise quickly becomes anything but.

Further complicating and propelling the plot, Ritchie’s boat breaks down and the trio becomes stranded at sea. As the castaways become increasingly desperate and tensions spill over, the dark humor fully leans into their collective misery. By making light of the more dire scenes, it allows its straightforward premise to be entertaining throughout.

Bill Murray Was Considered for the Role of Batman. In addition to Kevin Costner, Pierce Brosnan, and Mel Gibson, Bill Murray was considered for the role of the caped crusader in the 1989 film Batman. That was, until director Tim Burton came on board and went with Michael Keaton.

Yet as surprisingly funny as Harpoon is, it never undercuts the more gruesome survival of the fittest moments.

The retreat turns into a bloody game of cat and mouse as allegiances are made and resources become scarce. As their situation becomes more dire, the greater the change witnessed in their personalities. A character who the audience may have been wary of initially has ended up being rooted for, which allows characters to grow past their external trope-heavy personas.

This is a testament to the relatively unknown cast who are more than capable of giving both dramatic and physical performances. Seeing how this volatile situation molds each of their personalities is both shocking and highly amusing.

Godzilla was only seen for about 8 minutes in the 2014 film "Godzilla".

This further makes the unexpected twists in the latter half of the film that much more unexpected.

As the trio’s actions become more unpredictable, the more their sanity begins to unravel. Given how straightforward the film’s premise, the twists provide a breath of fresh air that allows the third act to be its most exciting and enjoyable.

This is not something most horror thrillers can boast.

Harpoon truly surprised me. From the outset, it seems like a fairly simplistic and predictable genre film. And, to be fair, it is just that. But, it is Rob Grant’s ability to smartly blend dark humor with violence that energizes its simplistic premise, serving as both a strong debut and a showcase of his potential for future films.

"Inception." In an interview with 'Entertainment Weekly', Christopher Nolan explained that he based roles of the Inception team similar to roles that are used in filmmaking - Cobb is the Director, Arthur is the Producer, Ariadne is the Production Designer, Eames is the Actor, Saito is the Studio, and Fischer is the Audience. "In trying to write a team-based creative process, I wrote the one I know," said Nolan.

Maintaining a consistent balance of laughs and carnage is no easy feat, but it’s these aspects which allow Harpoon to chart its horror-thriller course successfully.

Film Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies)
Harpoon opened in select cinemas on October 3rd and lands on VOD and Blu-ray on Oct 8th.

Written by Jay Krieger
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