Why Don't You Just Die

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Why Don't You Just Die
"The characters are beautifully drawn and the performances finely balanced in a film with a lot more going on upstairs than its preoccupation with violence might suggest." | Photo: Courtesy of PÖFF

When young Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) knocks on a stranger's door, a hammer nervously clutched in his other hand, it's pretty clear what he has in mind and equally clear that he hasn't done it before. The arrival of a neighbour with a fierce looking dog just as the door is answered ruins his moment and before he knows it he's inside being given a cup of tea by the wife of the police chief (Vitaliy Khaev) he went there to kill. The middle aged couple are hospitable and friendly, quickly establishing that Matvey is dating their daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), but the police chief isn't stupid. When he asks his wife to step into the other room for a moment, it's clear that Matvey's day is about to get a lot worse.

There's a long and proud tradition of messy fights in the movies, from the endless and seeming irresolvable skirmishes of The Duellists to the exhausting no-surrender punch-up of They Live. Why Don't You Just Die makes its first move with a desperate exchange that sees both men take a battering that the living room furniture suffer still more. It cheerfully breaks with cinematic convention to better reflect real world struggles in which nothing is easy or clear-cut and nobody is really very good at what they're doing, and in doing so interweaves the violence with comedy. But this is just the opening salvo.

Copy picture

As the film unspools and we learn more about each character's motivation, things get worse and worse for the comparatively innocent Matvey. repeated episode of violence, each more gruesome than the lat, punctuate and increasingly tangled plot. The characters are beautifully drawn and the performances finely balanced in a film with a lot more going on upstairs than its preoccupation with violence might suggest. Matvey makes an endearing hero but even the police chief, for all his sins, becomes oddly likeable. The real darkness in his character is revealed not by anything that we are told, or that he confesses, but from the telling way his wife skitters around trying to calm the situation, never daring to stand up to him directly. A great deal here is conveyed by body language, beyond the violence itself.

Set almost entirely within a single flat, and mostly in a single room, Kirill Sokolov's feature début gives the impression of having much more space because of the way the camera and actors keep moving. There's an energy to it that never lets up and we never know when we'll return to the fray. Impeccable comic timing and keen self-awareness makes what is essentially slapstick plus gore into something much more entertaining. It delighted Frightfest audiences and looks set to become a cult favourite.

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2019
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A dark action comedy about a group of people brought together in the apartment of police detective Andrei: his resentful daughter, an angry thug and a cheated cop. Each one of them have a reason to want revenge.


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