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‘Violet & Daisy’

by Kaori Shoji

Roses are red, but violets are crimson. As for daisies, well they’re caked with dark blood. That pretty much describes “Violet & Daisy,” a tale of two teenage girls in the contract-killing business. Elegant, imaginative and effortlessly stylish, the film comes off like a little black dress splattered with red. Or maybe a fashion slogan: “Machine-gun bloodbath is the new black.”

The titular characters kill for hire, partly to finance their wardrobes (they’re crazy about pop idol Barbie Sunday and the contents of Barbie Sunday’s closet) but mostly to fuel their tight, tight friendship. They’re fast. They’re good. They never miss their targets and suffer zero remorse.

Violet (Alexis Bledel) is the brunette, shrewd and ruthless. Blonde Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) is the (seemingly) wide-eyed innocent. Together they’re ranked eighth and ninth in the list of the World’s Best Assassins — a fact to which their boss Russ (Danny Trejo) often alludes. After taking a break from their usual blood-stained daily lives, Violet and Daisy get back to work. The target this time is a bland, harmless middle-aged guy named Michael (James Gandolfini).

Violet & Daisy (Violet & Daisy: Tenshi no Shokeinin)
Rating
Director Geoffrey Fletcher
Run Time 88 minutes
Language English

“Violet & Daisy” marks the directorial debut of Geoffrey Fletcher, much lauded for adapting the novel “Push” to the Oscar-winner “Precious” in 2009. Accordingly, he has an ear for teenage dialogue and he seems to have unerring gut instincts when it comes to drawing girlie adorable-ness. Though here those advantages are deployed to too-great effect, and Violet and Daisy seem needlessly more girlish than they should be. Popping bubble gum while firing machine guns? Sucking on lollipops before bed? Playing pat-a-cake and hopscotch? All very cute, but excessively so.

Despite their childish mannerisms, V. and D. have their own Manhattan pad (I’m guessing the rent is between $2,500 and $3,200 on the current market), furnished with a fusion taste of vintage Italian and quirky Early American. Not an Ikea item in sight, and you wouldn’t ever catch either of them in a Gap product. Apparently, killing people is more stable and lucrative a career than Wall Street.

When you’re tired of the adolescent I-may-murder-people-but-I’m-hurting-inside antics, rest your senses on Gandolfini. His Michael is nice — I mean really nice. He bakes the girls cookies when they announce they’re going to kill him. Not only is he a sitting duck, he’s a duck that insists on sitting right in front of their automatic rifles. Still, this is Gandolfini we’re talking about. Famed for playing tough guys in everything from “The Sopranos” to “True Romance,” he rarely played the nice guy, right up till his death in June. Even when he’s trying to be sweet the menace is there, lurking just below his too-big smile. You can’t help waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or maybe the cookies are poisoned.

In the U.S., “Violet & Daisy” was touted as “Thelma & Louise” for millennials. These girls are too young and angsty to recall those formidable ladies, but for all their 18 years, Violet and Daisy are already talking retirement. And though no mention is made of a cozy offshore bank account, it’s probably in the bag. Millennials are good like that.

For a chance to win one of five “Violet & Daisy” file folders, visit jtimes.jp/film.