Thursday, March 26, 2020

'Why Don't You Just Die!' (2019) Movie Review

Mean, nasty, bloody, violent, funny, vicious, unexpected, twisted, vengeful…I don’t know, I’m trying to collect words that will make you want to watch the crazy new Russian action film Why Don’t You Just Die!. That’s my goal here, to get you to watch this damn movie.

Writer/director Kirill Sokolov’s debut feature is all of the things listed above and more. Full of dark comedy and brutal, knee-drilling violence, it’s a wild, blood-soaked ride from end to end. The film balances the visceral, gut-churning carnage with a goofy, almost slapstick tone—it’s a fine line, and a choice that could easily go very wrong, but Sokolov maintains the equilibrium and the disparate qualities mesh well. It’s a bit like if young Sam Raimi made a revenge thriller instead of Evil Dead

Set almost entirely in a single apartment, save a few flashbacks, Why Don’t You Just Die! begins with Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov, who resembles a Russian Jai Courtney) knocking on a door with a hammer behind his back. He’s there to kill Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev), a corrupt cop and father of Matvey’s manipulative actress girlfriend, Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), who she claims molested her in her youth. Things do not go as planned as one complication after another arises.

Despite the physical constraints—primarily one location, only a handful of actors—the film has an epic twinge. Aided by a soaring, near-spaghetti-western style score, as the plot unfurls, regularly shifting in surprising directions that change the viewer’s perspective on matters, it becomes practically Shakespearean. There are betrayals, Andrey’s deranged wife, another dirty cop, and more. Motivations change and evolve, though the drive for revenge remains strong in everyone.

Even filming everything in a few rooms, Sokolov shoots the fights with an inventive eye, placing the camera at curious angles and employing unusual movements—at times it reminds me of the Mo Brothers’ Headshot. Only we’re not talking slick, skilled martial arts violence. These are messy, ruthless, fight-for-your-life brawls, on floors slick with blood (mid-fight slip-and-falls happen often), using whatever tools available to make the opponent stop (like a computer monitor). Over-the-top and drenched in residual splatter—so much blood—it also carries a real-world, physical impact sure to trigger some gag reflexes. 

Why Don’t You Just Die! knows precisely what it is and goes for it with reckless abandon. Sokolov creates something akin to what a Looney Tunes cartoon might look like in the real life—if the Coyote actually exploded or Elmer Fudd really blasted Daffy Duck point blank in the face with a shotgun. It has that madcap energy, but with real-world consequences. Coupled with a clever, unexpected plot that grows and evolves, this is a unique, wild ride of violence and revenge. [Grade: A-]

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