From its luxury boat setting to the “three friends with dark secrets” set-up to the snarky voice-over, Rob Grant’s dark comedy Harpoon couldn’t feel more 90s if it wanted to. This isn’t a criticism, necessarily. For anyone who spent a lot of time watching VHS tapes of crime thrillers with any and all comparisons to Tarantino splattered all over the box art, Harpoon will feel like a lovely trip to the past. Crucially, though, it’s also a tightly written, well-directed and well-acted piece of nastiness and not just a prompt to rewatch Suicide Kings.
Our three heroes are Jonah (Munro Chambers), a nice guy sad-sack, Richard (Christopher Gray), a spoiled rich kid with anger issues, and Sasha (Emily Tyra), Richard’s girlfriend who acts as the mediator and nurse for the pair of them. After Richard beats the shit out of Jonah, having misinterpreted a text that made him think he was sleeping with Sasha, he guiltily takes the pair out on his yacht for some sun, drinks and relaxation. But things go south, and now the trio are stranded with no food and no water and a lot of secrets to spill…
Briefly touching back on that note of nostalgia, those of us who’ve watched a lot of bad 90s crime thrillers may have their hackles raised by Brett Gelman’s (Stranger Things, Fleabag) voice-over but there is a real wit to the writing (the list of reasons why this trip was doomed from the start is particularly good) and the script is willing to push its characters to some really dark places. It’s also not particularly looking to excuse any of them, either. Jonah may seem nicer than Richard at first but he’s totally dependent on his friends’ time and money. Richard apologises for his violent behaviour but his outbursts are genuinely shocking and not soon forgotten. And then there’s Sasha, who is more than capable of holding her own and can be downright ruthless when the situation calls for it.
As the days without food or water pass, Grant ramps up the gross-out but pushes the revelations in tandem with the increasingly revolting dinner options, while throwing in the occasional well-timed oddball WTF moment or Ang Lee reference. Harpoon is dark, mean-spirited stuff but no one’s getting punished for the sake of it, and there are moments of sublime silliness that keep it nimble and entertaining. Jump on board.
Harpoon was seen and reviewed at Arrow Video FrightFest 2019.