Why Don't You Play in Hell (Japan)

Almost equal parts Yakuza drama, slavish love story to classic cinema shot on film, romantic comedy and over the top bloodbath, the Venn diagram intersection of those three makes it feel as if Why Don't You Play in Hell was specifically created for Fantastic Fest audiences. The wacky gonzo feel appealed to me, especially once I decided that logical consistency had no place in evaluating the film.

It's hard to comprehensively explain the tangled plot and motivations of all the characters. Thankfully I don't especially want to say anything that would take away from deconstructing the tangled bits yourself. There are essentially three groups interacting over the course of a ten year period. First - a group of gonzo (and supremely un-talented) filmmakers who for reasons never fully explained have named themselves the "Fuck Bombers." The second storyline tracks two gangs of feuding Yakuza - one of whom bosses has decided they should always wear kimono and setup their headquarters in a castle. Finally budding potential romance between the child actress since grown up daughter of one of the crime bosses and a guy she meets on the street while trying to run away. Ultimately all these groups are pulled inevitably towards each other as the girl's father's attempts to make her the star of a serious drama ... Largely as a thank you to her mom who has spent the lay ten years of prison praying for the girl's return to the stage. Which is a dicey proposition at best so many years after the girl's popular nationwide toothpaste commercial was taken off the air, due to the scandal of the mom violently dispatching a group of Yakuza assassins. Yep ... that's seriously the plot. Mixed in there's plenty of references to specific films and cinema in general. What's not to like?

One thing to especially love is the early sequence which explains how the Mom ends up incarcerated. Turns out it's hard to claim self defense when you chase one of the killers through the street with a chef's knife. The whole setup is visually amazing, and made laugh out loud. It's one of the most memorably enjoyable sequences I've seen in a while. The rest of the film for me never quite recaptured that high. But I suspect a lot of viewers will equally or even more appreciate the final epic conclusion where all parties come together to film a battle royale between the feuding gangs. Arguably fulfilling the Fuck Bombers lifelong dream to "to make a damn good movie - even if it's only one." Demonstrating in incredibly violent fashion one of the film's themes that a person should be willing to sacrifice everything for one's art. Though in the case of the bombers their passion seems to eclipse putting in the time and discipline to learn how to make a movie. Those and many other pieces creates a work about film that will give folks plenty to discuss, in addition to just marveling at the chaos. Whether you believe realists will always lose out to fantasists or not - there's a surprising amount to chew over after the final frame rolls.

The film's top charms are the murderous stage mom - and the two Yakuza leaders. Each of which are ridiculous but strangely compelling. The lack of skill of the Bombers combined with their extreme passion for film were a smidge annoying to me at times, to an extent I was pulled out of the film. Though thinking back perhaps that's one of the possible points of the picture. Around how enthusiasm, willingness to do anything and blind prayer may not be enough to create something of substance. Thankfully writer/director Shion Sono and his cast both clearly love cinema and have taken the time to master the skills required to create it.

Why Don't You Play in Hell is an ultraviolet genre film that likely will appeal to the sort of folks who like to see films about film - assuming they can look past all the blood. And I'm talking little child sliding across a floor covered in the stuff two inches deep. I know for many readers I had you at two inches of blood. But even if it doesn't sound awesome I'd suggest a broader group give it a chance - it's violent and flows red, but it's not especially gory (OK - there are a couple of exceptions to that too).

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