Harpoon [Fantasia International Film Festival Review]

Harpoon has three unlikable lead characters doing horrible things to one another for eighty minutes. That sort of story can be a turn-off. In this particular case, though, the loathsomeness of the trio is grounded in reality. These people are flawed in very realistic ways, for reasons we can kind of understand. Do we develop a weird sense of compassion for them as the movie goes on? Perhaps we do, even though they make their own hell and are then forced to live in it. This darkly funny thriller screened at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.

Jonah (Munro Chambers) and Richard (Christopher Gray) are best friends. Sasha (Emily Tyra) is Richard's girlfriend, although he suspects that she's having an affair with Jonah. The three go out for a ride on Richard's yacht, where his anger management issues kick in. After the motor dies, leaving them stranded at sea, matters quickly go from bad to worse. Accusations are made, secrets are revealed, and the fear of not being rescued puts everyone on edge.

That's the general gist of Harpoon. To get specific about what happens would be to deprive viewers of the chance to discover the demented events that transpire for themselves. Director Rob Grant builds tension well, adding new layers to the premise on a regular basis. Being stranded at sea is a scary thought, but there's a unique twist on how the characters are stranded that makes it extra chilling. This, in turn, leads to intense discussions between Jonah, Richard, and Sasha about various unconscionable acts they might need to do to survive. And since none of them really trusts the others, you're left with the realization that all sorts of horrific things could occur.

Harpoon is pleasingly unpredictable. Whenever you think you know where it's going, it makes a hard left turn. It also keeps raising its own game. Honestly, I was impressed by how the movie is continually able to devise something even sicker than whatever it just showed. This is made palatable by the pitch black comedic approach. The characters sometimes toss off amusing cracks in the midst of their predicament, or cruel little ironies pop up that elicit a chuckle.

Chambers, Gray, and Tyra give committed, authentic performances, and Brett Gelman provides droll narration. Harpoon isn't for the faint of heart. Anyone with a messed-up sense of humor and an interest in examining how low people can stoop in stressful situations will find plenty to enjoy. The descriptor “lean and mean” is totally apt for this wild film.

Harpoon is unrated, but contains graphic violence and adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 23 minutes.