Why Don't You Play In Hell? Is Quirky, Bloody and Downright Insane. It's Pretty Awesome.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
Director: Shion Sono.
Writer: Shion Sono.
Cast: Jun Kunimura, Fumi Nikaidô, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi.
Playing At: Alamo Drafthouse.
There's nothing more fun than a balls-to-the-wall, highly stylized and crazy-fun action film. But while many films strive for this, few films are ever actually able to hit on all of those notes without feeling tired.
Thank goodness, then, for Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, which not only keeps the momentum and energy going until the very last frame, but ends up being extremely hilarious and fantastic throughout its entire run.
A Japanese film distributed stateside by Drafthouse Films, Why Don't You Play In Hell? tells the tale of two warring yakuzas vying for power. Specifically, we follow Muto's mob, which hopes to help propel the boss' feisty daughter into the movie business after she had a successful run in a toothpaste ad as a child. Their decision to do this is spurred along by Muto's wife, who is serving a jail term she earned after killing multiple members of the rival yakuza, led by Ikegami. Muto's wife just wants to see her daughter succeed as a film star. As a result, a group of filmmakers called The Fuck Bombers ends up getting mixed up in the rivalry and is tasked with shooting these rival gangs' battles.
There are many moving parts here, clearly. But the ride is well worth it all, as it culminates in one of the most insane and blood-soaked climaxes you'll ever see.
This film is a crime thriller, a bloody action jaunt and a quirky comedy all neatly rolled into one unbelievably fun package. The characters are larger than life, making the film almost feel like a melodrama, albeit in the best kind of way. And, thankfully, the stylized silliness never wears out its welcome, either.
To be fair, though, it does ask a lot of its audience. You very much have to buy into the ridiculousness right away to enjoy the film. But once you do, every minute is pure joyful craziness.
I really do mean the good kind of crazy, too. A film like this could easily devolve into a convoluted mess, but, fortunately, it doesn't. Shion Sono's direction gives the final fight scene in particular a cohesive (and very violent) flow, and is able to build some subtle tension as he does. Even halfway through the sequence, it's difficult to tell who is going to live and who is going to die. Everyone is at risk.
And even though this film is pumped to the brim with B-movie level gore, the performances are what keeps the movie somewhat grounded.
First and foremost, there's Fumi Nikaido as the hopefully blossoming starlet Mitsuko, who is tasked with the difficult job of balancing the tough, mob daughter role and wanting to have some freedom and independence. Nikaido perfectly encapsulates Mitsuko's struggle and manages to be be both menacing and vulnerable when needed. Rival yakuza leader Inkegami, played by Shinichi Tsutsumi, too shines and especially in the comedic sense: Even though he's supposed to be the hardcore leader here, he shows his softer side when he talks about his crush on Misuko or when he decides to dress his gang in kimonos because he believes it will give them a sense of determination.
It's absolutely lunacy and over-the-top stylized craziness from start to finish — and exactly the kind of thing cinema could use more of nowadays.
You're going to dig it.
An earlier version of this review first ran on WDYMS.com. Why Don't You Play in Hell? opens Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse.