Matvey has a problem: he’s about to meet Andrey, the father of his girlfriend, Olya. Andrey is a head taller, built like a brickhouse, and has the disposition of an enraged grizzly born tragically without any morals whatsoever.
Matvey, like any young man when their girlfriend asks for a favor, is off on an errand. He’s here to kill Andrey, accused by Olya of being an abusive monster fit only for the grave. Only Andrey is not just a big, terrifying hunk of testosterone: he’s also a cop with decades of experience in dealing with actual gangsters. It doesn’t take him long to figure out what a wet noodle like Matvey is planning. Not least because Matvey’s grand plan is to walk up to the front door with a hammer, hoping for the best.
What follows can only be described as what would happen if Elmer Fudd actually caught Bugs Bunny and Warner Bros. looked the other way.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE is filled with absurdist, manic energy unlike anything I’ve seen since Sam Raimi stormed the cinematic beaches with his debut EVIL DEAD. What begins as a live-action Tom & Jerry quickly evolves into a self-contained celebration of westerns, thrillers, and even good old fashioned comedy gore in the vein of early Peter Jackson. Bones are broken, power drills are utilized in places they’re definitely not supposed to, and people are sprayed in so many bullets they’re more lead than human. Even an old CRT-television is used as a throwing weapon in one of the most stunning visuals of the year. Director Kirill Sokolov has an innate understanding of what makes us squirm, and he’s more than happy prod our nerve endings every step of the way.
Good taste rarely has a say in the film, which isn’t to say that Sokolov’s instincts aren’t impeccable – he just knows exactly how to avoid anything resembling sanity for the sake of laughter. In one of the funniest scenes in the film a melodramatic eulogy goes terribly awry when Sokolov reminds us just how much blood there actually is in the human body.
Sokolov’s inherent interest in human nature and greed has elements of a naughtier version of FARGO and A SIMPLE PLAN, which both dealt with the corrupting nature of money, only here his vision extends even further. What happens when society itself is so rotten to the core that even gratuitous violence becomes acceptable to uphold the facade?
More surprising than the violence is just how funny the film is. Even as it dives headfirst into some truly dark places, WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE never fails to elicit a laugh out of the situation. It’s never mean, either. Dark comedies that deal with violence usually have a tendency to go for nihilism and cheap laughs at the expense of others, so it’s a pleasure to see Sokolov mine gags from audience expectations, happily subverting them for his own private jokes. Watch for example how Matvey attempts to weazel his way out of a pair of handcuffs. There is dedication to the joke that goes beyond normal expectations. It starts off as funny, becomes painful, then absurd, and continues to be so stretched out that it’s funny all over again. It’s the kind of everything-must-go attitude that finds where the line in the sand is – and then proceeds to do a triple-backwards-somersault over it.
There’s also spectacular use of space and sound. Most of the story takes place in a drab green twin room apartment, though quick asides give the feeling of a much grander epic at play. The result is hectic, but never boring or hard to follow. Sokolov knows his genre tropes inside out and he utilizes some particularly clever ways to wring out energy from unexpected tonal shifts. Like our hapless lead character, Sokolov takes great pleasure in knocking the audience about until they’re exhausted, only to revive them in spectacular fashion moments later.
Granted, there’s a long lull early in the third act that spends a bit too long explaining itself as if the movie suddenly felt it requires justification. But it’s quickly forgotten as the film regains its posture for a rousing and wholly unexpected finale that not just pays off its ambitious gamble, but makes you want to revisit it immediately again.
WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! is playing in select cinemas right now. Look for it on Blu-ray next year.