Written by: Matt Patti | April 19th, 2020
Why Don’t You Just Die! (Kirill Sokolov, 2018) 2½ out of 4 stars
Why Don’t You Just Die! is a Russian dark comedy that is now being released in the United States after a successful festival run around the globe in which it racked up many awards. A stylistic blood and gore fest at its core, the film also offers an intriguing story and interesting characters amongst the often ludicrous bloodbath. As the feature debut of director Kirill Sokolov, Why Don’t You Just Die! is also a study in artistic and inventive filmmaking techniques.
The film begins with a young man named Matvey knocking on an apartment door. He hides a hammer behind his back. He is there on a mission to kill his girlfriend Olya’s father, Andrey. An old, bald retired policeman, Andrey opens the door. Matvey tells Andrey that he is his daughter Olya’s boyfriend. Andrey invites him in, although Olya is not there, and they sit at the dining room table. The two have never met before, and Andrey is suspicious. Eventually, Matvey swings the hammer at Andrey and a big bloody brawl ensues. Soon, Olya, along with other characters, arrives at the apartment. Each one seems to have a different issue with Andrey, and the madness heightens. Will anyone escape this bloodbath alive?
At the onset, one will realize that this film is very stylized and over-the-top, especially in its blood-soaked fight scenes. The filmmakers do a great job in using a variety of shots and camera moves within each scene to amp up the tension and highlight the unknown. The film uses an interesting and unique editing style as well, including slo-mo and odd but clever cut-ins. The ridiculous but impactful fight scenes throughout the film are all very interesting to watch because of this, and wouldn’t hold the same interest without these unconventional visual and artistic choices.
The writing works hand in hand with the cinematography and editing to subvert the viewer’s expectations and often surprise. There are many great scenes in which the shot will only show a certain part of the action and the audience thinks they know exactly what happened and that it is cut and dry. Then, the film will backtrack a bit and show the other part of the scene, which now changes the meaning of everything that we saw before. These clever twists are written well and enhanced by the technical choices Sokolov makes.
Unfortunately, where the film succeeds is also where it falters, at times, sometimes stumbling into being “too much of a good thing.” The clever technical style of the film works for the most part, but at times the cuts can be quite jarring, the soundtrack a bit overbearing, and the blood and gore a bit too plentiful to the point of being not only stomach-churning, but also sometimes laughable. The film likewise suffers from a conflicting tone: though billed as a dark comedy, outside of the outrageous fight scenes I wouldn’t say the film is quite that humorous. It could work well as a thriller or drama, except that those outrageous brawls take you out of the core story and into a bombastic bloodbath.
Overall, though, Why Don’t You Just Die! is a very unique and fun film that features great cinematography, interesting editing techniques, and intriguing characters who make interesting choices. The film will be recognized more for its style than its story, but the writing still keeps viewers interested and works well with the style. Even if the barrage of stylistic choices is a bit overbearing and overwhelms the senses at times, the majority of it works and is quite pleasing to see. Why Don’t You Just Die! is a testament to the fact that – in today’s world of many ordinary, similar films – unique, stylized, artistic filmmaking is not dead.