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Why Don't You Just Die!
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by Jay Seaver

"Bloody black comedy."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2019 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: This pitch-black comedy may be the most action-packed film of the festival, a bloody mess of a movie that maintains a breakneck pace for much longer than one might expect and manages the neat trick of having several of its characters doing corrupt, violent things while still maintaining some level of sympathy, which is kind of the only way this sort of free-for-all works. "Why Don't You Just Die!" is as darkly comic and violent as you'd expect from the title, but occasionally shows that it knows where the line is between that sort of darkness and outright nihilism.

It starts with a heck of a hook, as Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) nervously stands outside the apartment of his girlfriend's father Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev), nervously fiddling with the hammer he's planning to use to cave the man's head in. But someone passes by at the wrong time, so Matvei makes an excuse, Andrei reluctantly invites him in, but now his wife Natasha (Elena Shevchenko) is there and Andrei seems to be especially wary once Matvei doesn't have a great excuse for the hammer...

Writer/director/editor Kirill Sokolov doesn't wait very long to start paying that set-up off, immediately throwing his characters through the wringer, drenching the set with red as he quick-cuts to build up speed but tends to follow a smashing blow through, dropping down to slow motion to let viewers "savor" the impact. There are two or three top-shelf action bits in this movie, and a lot of them are set up by making the audience hyper-aware of just where exactly everything is and then sent careening in new directions by weird, violent slapstick. It feels even more absurd (most) confined to one fairly small apartment, and Sokolov manages to heighten things well past when most people would be dead while still having the blood loss take a believable toll (although I gather that this is somewhat realistic, in that it's surprisingly difficult to knock someone unconscious even though adrenaline doesn't actually make one superhuman)..

Things slow down necessarily when Sokolov leaves the apartment for flashbacks, introducing Andrei's daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde) and partner Yevgenich (Mikhail Gorevoy), with his sequence probably more of a diversion than is ideal for showing just where the money Andrei has hidden comes from. These pieces could be calibrated a bit better, sometimes not being quite enough and sometimes taking a while to circle back, but it's hard to see how Sokolov could do that better even as he's mostly doing what needs to be done, and I suspect that a Russian viewer might find the way that they highlight certain aspects of lawlessness, amorality, and patriarchy sharper and more on-target than outsiders. The film also starts to run out of steam a bit in the end, but Sokolov at least seems to sense this and finish up quickly, though without particularly rushing.

The film is never entirely Matvei vs. Andrei, but it is built around that, and the two stars handle their jobs quite well. Aleksandr Kuznetsov gets the fun little moments as Matvei, delivering an earnest nervousness in the early scenes while still seeming just rough enough around the edges that Olya might believably think he could kill her father, and as his lines dry up because talking hurts, he does a fine switch to selling deadpan humor with the looks on his face. Vitaliy Khaev's Andrei is the sort of solid thug who is solid enough to never absorb quite enough damage for that, but no invincible, and Kaev is fun to watch in the role - smart enough to be cunning, simple enough to frequently be caught short, able to add just the slightest bit of Rodney Dangerfield to the blunt corrupt cop archetype. It's kind of unfortunate that the women in the film don't have quite so much to do, especially Elena Schevchenko, who seldom seems to have a chance to do much with the mother reaching the end of her ability to engage in denial. Evgeniya Kregzhde impressed me a little more the second time through, though, for how well Olya reflects Andrei's least impressive qualities without seeming to imitate him.

The film isn't much deeper than that, but it does a bit more than revel in its nastiness even if it most assuredly does that. It's as funny as it is bloody, and directed with great energy, and it'll be interesting to see if Sokolov can keep that up.

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originally posted: 06/13/20 09:20:20
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/24/20 Louise (the real one) A copy-and-paste Tarantino job. Felt kind of weird watching it. 2 stars
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