Gleefully violent and pitch black in its humor, writer/director Kirill Sokolov's award-winning debut feature Why Don't You Just Die! arrives in select U.S. theatres on April 10th with esteemed indie distributor Arrow Video repping its cred and making sure a wider audience catches this uniquely inspired film that smashes Tarantino's cinematic forehead into a film that Sokolov declares reflects the realities of life in Russia, modern relationships, and societal attitudes.
Why Don't You Just Die! is only a few minutes old when Sokolov lets loose with the chaos, a result that starts with Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) nervously gaining entry into the home of the apartment of his girlfriend's parents to defend her honor by killing her reportedly abusive father, Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev), who's no elderly slouch and clearly catches on rather quickly that something is up. Matvey's plans don't go quite as expected, Andrey is a formidable opponent with more than a few skeletons in his closet while, on the other hand, Matvey just plain refuses to die.
The vast majority of the film's just over 90-minute running time is spent with these two going at each other in an increasingly violent fashion. It's as if Tarantino directed a live-action Looney Tunes mash-up. You can't help but expected Samuel L. Jackson to show up at some point.
He never does.
While Why Don't You Just Die! may remind you of filmmakers like Tarantino and Ritchie, the truth is it's simply a bold and visionary debut for a filmmaker with the confidence to pull it all off. There's a stylish sophistication to everything that's going on here, an intentionality that radiates through every seemingly impulsive moment and little scenes that may not seem relevant until you get the end of it all and realize this is an incredibly cohesive motion picture.
There's a mid-section in the film that slows things down a bit, breathing space for the audience and an opportunity to understand the backstory and become even more invested in the characters themselves. It's a bold move by Sokolov because it interrupts the rhythm of the film, but it pays off immensely by film's end. Why Don't You Just Die! becomes a cinematic rollercoaster, the kind of experience where you laugh, cry, and laugh again then end up feeling guilty because you laughed.
But not that much.
Why Don't You Just Die! has picked up a slew of awards along its festival journey including the New Flesh Award for Best First Feature and Silver Audience Awards at Fantasia, Best European Feature Film at MOTELx, Best Director at Fantaspoa, and Best Feature, Best Director, and Best VFX at Grimmfest. critical acclaim from festivals around the globe, taking home the New Flesh Award for Best First Feature and Silver Audience Award at Fantasia, Best European Feature Film at MOTELx, Best Director at Fantaspoa, Best Feature, Best Director and Best VFX Awards at Grimmfest.
This is a film that looks good, sounds good, tells an awesome story, and has an incredible cast.
The violence in Why Don't You Just Die! becomes so over-the-top that it's difficult to take seriously, though if you're sensitive to ultra-violence, gore, or anything that has the name Tarantino attached this is probably not the film for you.
Kuznetsov has more than a passing resemblance ot rapper Macklemore and nearly as much charisma. He captures Sokolov's rhythm and tone perfectly, weaving together gallows humor and the lunacy of it all to perfection. Khaev is just as much fun to watch, an imposingly brutal figure you simply can't stop watching and a larger-than-life fellow who never becomes a full-on caricature. Elena Shevchenko is terrific as Andrey's timid wife, while Evgeniya Kregzhde rocks as Olya.
D.P. Dmitriy Ulyukaev's lensing is brash and dizzying and inspired, while Viktor Zudin's production design is a brilliant tapestry of domestic chaos and institutionalized corruption. The award-winning VFX team deserves all its kudos, while Sokolov incorporates sublime musical selections throughout the film that work to perfection.
Picked up by Arrow for a limited nationwide release on April 10th, Why Don't You Just Die! is already set for screenings in L.A., New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Knoxville, Ithaca, Houston, Lubbock, El Paso and Phoenix with more likely to come and we can only hope that more are to come.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic