Why Don’t You Play in Hell? (2013)

Posted: June 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
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A bitter and long-running feud between two rival Yakuza gangs takes in the aspiring actress daughter of one of the bosses, the love of her life that she never knew she had and a gaggle of aspiring film-makers who dub themselves “The Fuck Bombers”.

“Why Don’t You Play in Hell” is a comedy-action movie from Shion Sono, probably best known in the West for the dark horror/drama “Suicide Club”. It’s been a lean few years for fans of the talented Japanese auteur, and his most recent films have failed to live up to the high expectations set by his best work. “Why Don’t You Play in Hell” is a rip-roaring return to form, a love letter to film fans that delivers pure enjoyment in the weird, darkly fun way that only Japanese cinema is capable of.

The first hour of the film assembles all the pieces of the jigsaw, and slowly slots them into place. Relationships are established and others formed against a backdrop of silly over-the-top comedy and bursts of extreme violence presented so stylishly that they are absurd rather than off-putting. The set-up most closely resembles that of a farce, as the disparate threads are deliberately woven together to set the scene for the ultimate confrontation between the bizarre cast of mugging grotesques and delusional caricatures. While it is easy to see where the film is heading, something that those unused to the pace of Japanese cinema may find frustrating, there is still more than enough going on to make this all extremely enjoyable in it’s own right.

It is during the big battle between the Yakuza gangs, taking up the bulk of the final stretch, that the film really takes flight. Gloriously excessive, outrageously ridiculous and somehow still surprising in the turns it takes despite how telegraphed the resolution is. There is a real glee to the action, referencing the films of Bruce Lee, “Kill Bill” and even “Bonnie and Clyde”, that draws you in; leaving your jaw hanging in sheer awe at the decadence of the violence. Sono shamelessly pulls out every trick he can think of to keep it all fresh, like a conjurer high on speed pulling rabbits from every orifice without ever pausing for applause.

Despite the sheer volume of bloodshed, it was clearly not Sono’s intention for this film to be taken seriously. Never has the phrase “it’s only a movie” been more apt, given the constant reminders that this is no sort of reality. “Just sit back and enjoy the ride, film fans” he seems to be saying, and what a ride he has constructed. Knowingly weird, wilfully obscure and, at times, borderline nonsensical; this is a terrifically fun film with plenty of laughs and an epic conclusion that will leave you with adrenaline coursing through your veins.

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