[Cinepocalypse 2019 Review] Why Don't You Just Die!
“He did not live to know who the winner was”
When your movie opens with a quote from noted Irish satirist Flann O’Brien, who is often regarded as a key figure in postmodern literature, you better deliver. His work dabbled in bizarre humor and metafiction and were often satires of culture as he saw it. And while Why Don’t You Just Die! doesn’t trade in the same philosophical undertakings of O’Brien’s writings like The Third Policeman, it’s easy to see how his work, as well as some more cinematic creators, influenced first time feature writer/director Kirill Sokolov. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start at the start…which is actually the middle.
Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) stands in front of an apartment room, nervously holding a hammer behind his back while contemplating whether to ring the doorbell or not. He’s a cute young man wearing a brown Batman hoodie that won’t stay brown for long and he bangs on his chest (while chanting, “One, two three, Evil won’t touch me”) to psych himself up. The apartment belongs to a police officer named Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev) and Matvei is here to kill him.
Things are complicated by the arrival of Andrei’s wife Natasha (Elena Shevchenko) who invites him in for coffee when they find out he’s friends with their daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde). Awkwardly, Matvei sits down for coffee, eyeing the dubious Andrei who also eyes him back. When his hammer falls out of his back pocket, Andrei dryly asks, “Do you always carry that with you?” And at that moment, the standoff between the two men intensifies; told through glances, facial expressions and a swooping, zooming camera mixed with music straight out of a Spaghetti Western.
Unfortunately, Matvei has brought a hammer to a gunfight as Andrei dismisses his wife, goes to the kitchen and returns with a shotgun. And just like that, the shotgun goes off, the couch explodes with money—don’t worry we’ll get to that—and Matvei is on Andrei, smashing his head. But Andrei pulls the cord of a TV above them, causing it to crash down on Matvei. And what follows is a Looney Tunes fight that has Matvei going butt-first into a wall, punched testicles, broken tables and a television to the face.
The action pauses briefly to tell us a story about Matvei. Turns out he’s there to kill Andrei after one night Olya tells him her father sexually assaulted her as a kid. And that moment has weighed on her to a distressing degree her entire life. A triptych of backstories like this begin to fill in the motivations, the characters and just why Andrei’s couch is filled with money in this zany and bloody mess of a morality tale. These diversions keep the narrative twisty. And while the main thrust is a protracted battle between Andrei and Matvei, as more characters are introduced with dubious motives, the plot constantly thickens and twists.
Sokolov imbues Why Don’t You Just Die! with incredible style and kinetic energy. Cinematographer Dmitriy Ulyukaev unleashes a litany of stylish and exciting camera tricks. Slow motion and zoomed in shots of blood pooling or water dripping from a faucet to a disgustingly staged shot of Matvei using his tongue to fish out a bobby pin from a hairy drain just exude talent. From standoffs to zooming closeups of eyes jerking in one direction to stare downs, the influences are an obvious mix of Tarantino and the aforementioned Spaghetti Westerns.
It’s the kind of movie that has a handcuffed Matvei utilizing a bobby pin to try to try to escape only for an instructional video telling us that imported handcuffs have double locks that are immune to bobby pins. “We’re fucked, bro,” the narrator deadpans as an arrow and the words “import” point to Matvei’s handcuffs. It’s also the kind of movie that will have you question just how much blood a human body can have. Parts are drilled, shot, exploded and mutilated in gloriously cartoony fashion. And it’s directed and photographed with such absurd enthusiasm that you can’t help but laugh at the amoral debauchery on screen.
I loved this movie’s dark and caustic sense of humor and the insane and bloody fights. I found it absolutely hysterical and engaging and I can’t wait for more people to discover it.