• Violet & Daisy

Shoot-’em-up action movies are often derided as adolescent-male fantasies, but how often do you see one that could be described as an adolescent-female fantasy? Such is the case of Violet & Daisy, a most adorable hitman movie that snuck through town earlier this year. It’s currently available to rent at Redbox stands, and, in my opinion, well worth $1.20 of your hard-earned money, if not a solid two bucks. Alexis Bledel and Saoirse Ronan play the title characters, a couple of charming young women who work as assassins in a storybook version of Manhattan. The central joke is that they behave like any preteen girl’s fantasy of what she’ll be like when she grows up, dressing smartly, earning respect through her work, and spreading good cheer. Not only are they without malice—they don’t register as sexualized beings either.

This is sure to strike some viewers as excessively offbeat, but for what it’s worth, the movie stays true to its peculiar vision. Part of the charm stems from the fact that all the characters, not just Bledel and Ronan, channel the same schoolgirl projection of adulthood. As the girls’ exceedingly helpful victim, James Gandolfini is as lovable here as he was in Enough Said, in which he also played a bumbling but well-intentioned father. And Danny Trejo, who turns in a cameo as the girls’ employer, more than holds his own with Ronan when it comes to playing patty-cake. The dialogue has a direct, guileless quality that defamiliarizes the morbid subject matter—when the players get it going at a uniform clip, it sounds like something out of an absurdist theater production.

Writer-director Geoffrey Fletcher was likely inspired by Seijun Suzuki’s surrealist female-assassin saga Pistol Opera. As in that movie, the girls belong to an organization in which killers are ranked according to a bizarre code. Even more reminiscent of Suzuki’s film is the outlandish production design, which sometimes approaches cartoon-style abstraction. Befitting the heroines’ love of high fashion, Violet & Daisy is a great-looking film. It’s worth noting that Fletcher wrote the screenplay for Lee Daniels’s Precious, another sensitive movie about young women in New York with unexpectedly gorgeous mise-en-scene. Like all of Daniels’s films, Precious was a lot weirder than most mainstream critics gave it credit for. At times, Violet & Daisy feels like Fletcher’s act of revenge on those viewers who pegged him for a square.