HARPOON **** Canada 2019 Dir: Rob Grant. 83 mins
Brett Gelman’s arch, sarcastic narration is the perfect accompaniment to this three-handed black comedy – commentating on the film’s own chapter titles and pointing out superstitions inherent in the plot to an absurd degree (“Bananas on board are a bad omen for a multitude of reasons…”). Richard (Christopher Gray) has a six-figure bank balance, anger management issues and a long-term partner in Sasha (Emily Tyra). After he beats the shit out of his neurotic pal Jonah (Munro Chambers) due to a misunderstanding about a secret birthday gift (the harpoon of the title), he apologises by taking them out to sea in his boat “The Naughty Buoy”. His jealousy and paranoia remain, and increases as various secrets are unveiled, things turn nasty and even the apparent hopefulness of the last scene in JAWS is questioned.
Revelling in barbed, bitchy dialogue exchanges and performed with gusto, this is a pithy, mean-spirited study of just how petty, stubborn and unpleasant human beings can be to their own closest friends. The dialogue references everything from Edgar Allan Poe to THE LIFE OF PI, while the scar-sharing set piece from JAWS is cleverly transformed into an uncomfortably funny explosion of honesty spun off from the inevitably doomed question “Who was better in bed?” Writer-director Rob Grant has a fondness for grisly incidental details (the quaffing of seagull blood, lingering shots of infection) and maintains a sense of ironic detachment en route to a last act that takes the premise to its logical, suitably flippant extreme.
Review by Steven West