I have always been a fan of mean films. The ones that push humanity and show the true dark underbelly of even the of best friends. One of my favourite films to revisit yearly is Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave. Harpoon, from director Rob Grant, isnow on the festival circuit, and it hits all the right notes, making it a dark but fun watch from beginning to end.
Opening with a cynically cold narration from Brett Gelman, we are introduced to our three protagonists: Jonah (Munro Chambers) a recently orphaned loser, Richard (Christopher Gray) his rich, self-entitled, rage-filled best friend, and Sasha (Emily Tyra) the third in this doomed trio and Richard’s girlfriend. The introduction of these characters is a brutal, bloody fight, and it is quickly made obvious that things are not looking up for these three.
Once Harpoon gets going things get really interesting. Stranded on open water with a boat that won’t start, our three heroes(?) quickly find out things can go from bad to worse in an instant. Lacking any food or water, the sexual tension and toxic masculinity slowly break down any lingering facade of friendship as they quickly start turning on each other.
These nasty characters are in no way redeemable, nor are they supposed to be. These are characters that would slowly break down into madness without the structure of the outside world—and they do. We want to see them implode under the weight of their situation—and we do get to see all the bloody results.
Harpoon is oozing in toxic behaviour of all kinds. From the rage issues of Richard and the “nice guy” front from Jonah to the passive enabler nature of Sasha, these are the nastiest of humanity made manifest. They enjoy life in the worst way possible as the world around them crumbles away, and that works for the film. To have a story like Harpoon work, we need characters that lack any redemption. They act as the catalyst for their own destruction and our amusement.
As the film goes on, we get to see the slow and brutally violent downfall of all these characters as the narrator coolly outlines how there is no hope, and the die was cast the moment they stepped onto the boat. It is a clever use of maritime superstition to foreshadow the inevitable end of our truly horrible heroes.
Harpoon is a viciously nasty film in the best possible way. With no true moral centre to the madness this may be a hard watch for some, but the overall film is well worth the suffering. Suffering is the name of the game with Harpoon; the director pushes the trio to the brink for the audience’s amusement and for me it work. This is a friendship that was rotting under the surface, and all it takes is a cut to bring that bloody mess to the surface. A must-see for anyone who enjoys the slow dissection of friendship in the bloodiest way possible.