The phrase “fashion victim” takes on new meaning in “Violet & Daisy.” The reason the title characters, a couple of girly-girl teenage assassins, take a job during their vacation is to get cash for a much-coveted dress. The mix of violence and materialism calls to mind the psychological satire of “American Psycho,” although this uneven film makes less of an impact than Bret Easton Ellis’s cult classic novel-turned-movie.
The directorial debut from “Precious” screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher captures the quirks of the adorable, naive and lethal Violet (Alexis Bledel) and Daisy (Saoirse Ronan). Evidence of their arrested development is constant and over-the-top, including the girls’ penchant for playing pat-a-cake and their preferred mode of transportation, an oversized tricycle. Even when they’re spraying very large, very intimidating men with bullets, the girls may be simultaneously blowing big pink bubbles with their chewing gum.
The pair’s professional judgment is tested when they’re hired to take out “the man” (James Gandolfini), a thief who has stolen a truckload of cologne and cash from the duo’s boss. Much like Violet and Daisy, the robber is an unassuming and irrational character. When he arrives home to find the girls, guns in hand, asleep on his couch, he covers them with a blanket and bakes them cookies. He also seems to want to die, which gives the killers pause and sets in motion a mildly amusing comedy of errors as Violet and Daisy try to find the nerve, not to mention the ammunition, to finish the job.
Fletcher, who also wrote the script, has a talent for shooting beautiful scenes and sequences. He has a photographer’s eye for capturing city skylines and interior spaces. But the film’s subtle visual allure is all but stamped out by the impression that the director tries too hard to be an idiosyncratic auteur in the vein of Quentin Tarantino.
The movie is broken into bewilderingly-titled chapters, which add little to the story. “Violet’s Odyssey,” for example, lasts all of a couple minutes and hardly feels like an epic journey. And the use of an iris wipe — a transition from one scene to the next using a shrinking circle — seems less like retro-inspired fun than self-conscious distraction.
The lack of subtlety extends to the story, which occasionally spells comedy, as when Violet and Daisy attempt to prove they’re terrifying killers while sporting milk mustaches. But often the pair’s resolute childishness is maddening. The girls have a gee-whiz way of speaking to each other, using old-timey phrases such as “swell” and “looky here,” that gets old quickly.
The film is well cast. Gandolfini pulls off the character of a sad but lovable father figure, while Ronan, who also played a child assassin in “Hanna,” has a soft-spoken but searing screen presence. But the actors can’t compensate for a story that ultimately sputters.
Any suspense that builds as Violet and Daisy prepare for their big job dissipates the second the girls step into the man’s empty apartment. The girls aren’t concerned enough to stay awake. And if they can’t be bothered to worry about their fate, why should the audience?
R. At AFC Hoffman Center 22. Contains blood, violence and crude language. 88 minutes.