Directed by: #RobGrant
Writer/director Rob Grant’s latest feature (for which he has a ‘Shark Wrangler’ credit), Harpoon, is a tense and riveting thriller experience. But its tongue-in-cheek, narrative-driven plot – full of humour and wit – belies its true nature and leads the viewer into a false sense of security—before punching you in the face during the last act of the movie. If it were a person, it wouldn’t be a particularly good friend.
This leads me nicely into our little group of castaways, who are less a close-knit clique than they are a dysfunctional melange. In fact, there’s running joke throughout the film – delivered by Brett Gelman and his superb monotone narration – about different kinds of friendships. For instance, Jonah (Munro Chambers) and Richard’s (Christopher Gray) ‘friendship of convenience’ certainly isn’t a healthy one. Richard’s financially privileged background conceals a history of violence (both he and his father suffer from rage-filled paranoia). While Jonah’s obsession with his neglectful parents and the debt they left him in, continually sends him running back to his more privileged friend. Then there’s Sasha (a brilliant performance from Emily Tyra). Seemingly the only sane member of the group and Richard’s girlfriend. Who has a strained sexual history with her boyfriend and, more often than not, spends her time playing mother to both Richard and Jonah.
It’s Richard’s paranoia and rage issues that lead him to brutally attack his friend on the assumption that he’s sleeping with Sasha. By way of an apology to them both, he arranges a day trip on his boat with his new harpoon (“Speargun!”), which Jonah and Sasha had bought him for his birthday. Which, in retrospect, may not have been a great idea. Unfortunately, it turns out not sufficiently stocking your boat in case of unforeseen issues, stranding three people, all with trust issues and strenuous relationships, on a small ship together, certainly wasn’t.
Who knew, right?
Despite being billed as a comedy-horror, I think it’s fair to say Harpoon sits firmly in the thriller camp. Grant and co-writer Mike Kovac have indeed written it as such. Using the tried-and-tested formula of misapprehension and deception to weave its narrative and, hopefully, trick its audience. But I’ve got to say, that didn’t happen for me. I saw the final twist (because there are a few) coming quite early on, and I believe that’s because the film comes across as being a little formulaic. However, Harpoon is brilliantly written and directed, and the sallies between the group are both well-timed and excellently delivered. And, despite not being very surprising, the revelations are well-handled and nicely paced.
The real star of the show for me, however, was the superb narration running through the film. It plays out like the opening scenes of Hot Fuzz in its tone; taking a more humorous approach and alleviating some of the edginess. It may not work for everyone, particularly die-hard thriller fans, but I found it a welcome change of pace.
The altering attitude of the movie brought on by the film’s humour contrasting with the genuinely unpleasant nature of things happening on-screen does mean that when that climax hits you, it hits bloody hard. Although I do feel that Harpoon sticks a little too much to the standard ‘safe’ thriller formula, possibly losing a few of the more hard-core genre fans in the process. The upshot of this is that there’s a far more accessible film here for movie-goers who perhaps aren’t big fans of the genre.