A lean, mean thriller with pitch-black humor pumping through its veins, Harpoon has friendship on its mind. Throughout life, friendships are forged on various foundations of need and utility, but sometimes it’s simply a matter of having grown up together. As you get older and drift apart, that foundation can become weak and precarious. That’s the type of friendship in focus here, where three friends are bound by their lengthy history, but perhaps shouldn’t be. When the trio are left stranded in the middle of the ocean after their yacht breaks down, both their friendships and their lives are tested in harrowing ways.
Thanks to snappy narration via the Narrator (Stranger Thing’s Brett Gelman), no time is wasted cutting straight to the chase. Richard (Christopher Gray) is the rich son of a mob boss and has a serious anger management problem. The Narrator barely has enough time to tell us this before Richard is pummeling his best friend, Jonah (Turbo Kid’s Munro Chambers), to a bloody pulp for possibly sleeping with his longtime lady love, Sasha (Emily Tyra). Sasha intervenes and presents Richard with the true reason he suspects the affair: a harpoon the duo planned as a birthday present for Richard in secret. Half-hearted apologies are made and the group is off to Richard’s yacht for the day to test out the new toy. But when it stalls out, those apologies come undone and exposed secrets lead to violence. And that’s without the threat of dehydration, starvation, and the elements.
Straight away, Richard, Jonah, and Sasha are presented as unlikable characters. It quickly becomes clear, though, that we’re not meant to empathize with them so much as revel in the sadistic glee with which director Rob Grant scrutinizes and holds them accountable for their actions. Harpoon is pitch-black humor at its blackest and most vicious. Grant doesn’t shy away from the bloodshed and brutality, either. Harpoon will make you laugh as much as it will make you cringe.
At a breezy 80-minute runtime, the narrative bolts out of the gate running and never eases up for a second. Quick and breathless, the tension and violence keep ramping up until reaching critical mass. Though you can likely surmise the level of bleakness the story is headed to and where it will end up, there’s still so many turns and surprises in store along the way. In other words, this is the precise type of film that reminds you that some of the best stories are about the journey, not the endpoint.
For all of the comedic elements and shocking violence, though, Harpoon has a lot to say. It’s more than just an examination of three very different friends connected by their years together, or how these terrible human beings couldn’t be any more deserving of each other. It’s a film that takes clever aim at toxic masculinity at both ends of the spectrum.
The only real winner in Harpoon is the viewer. Gelman’s sarcastic voiceover work against the gore and tension on screen work in unison to deliver one of the year’s best surprises. Fast-paced and full of incredulous moments that will leave you laughing and gasping in equal measure, this movie is one boat ride worth taking.
Movie Score: 4/5