For whatever reason, movies and gangsters always seem to go hand-in-hand and tell the most interesting stories. Whether it’s seeing the lavish lifestyle, a snitch bumping elbows with the worst of the worst, or a young upstart moving up the perilous ladder to the top, it is almost always engaging. Typically, these types of stories are always treated with a level of seriousness and believability.
Well, for those wanting to see a mob movie that is deathly serious, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? might not be for you, but for those wanting to see an outrageous crime story that plays up its ridiculous scenario with bloody explosions, mixed-martial arts and gun battles galore, then this film is a must see for any crime-genre fan.
Directed and written by Sion Sono (Himizu, Love Exposure, Cold Fish), one of the best known directors to popularize the suicide club genre, Why Don’t You Play in Hell tells the twisted story of the “Fuck Bombers,” a group of genre-loving film nerds lead by a wannabe director named Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa). Eventually recruited by a very powerful and violent Yakuza gang leader played by Jun Kunimura (The Wind Rises, Outrage), Hirata is finally given the chance to direct a film, his lifelong dream. However, his directorial debut consists of actually directing an all-out war between two rival Yakuza clans.
There are many sub-plots within the film, but Hirata’s is the one that is easily the most focused. Eventually, every character and plot comes down on one another in an over the top bloodbath that involves everything from severed limbs to fountains of sprayed blood. American viewers who are fans of Kill Bill Part 1’s final act will feel at home during the blood soaked 30 minute finale of Why Don’t You Play in Hell?.
The majority of the performances can aptly be described as “loud.” It seems as if every person was given a shot of adrenaline before filming started, but those who might feel overwhelmed by the broad performances will eventually become accustomed to the bombastic tone. The best and most shocking performance is by Fumi Nikaido, who stars as Michiko, the dangerously psychotic and wickedly funny daughter of Kunimura. Early in the film, she is the star of a popular toothpaste commercial, with a jingle that is surprisingly catchy. In all honesty, viewers might start humming it by the time the credits role.
The film’s overall humor may not jive with everyone’s tastes, but the movie covers enough weird scenarios and genres that it will at least give the viewer something to be relatively surprised by. There are obvious hints to past movies that inspired it. As mentioned previously, Kill Bill’s influence is obvious, but there are other call backs to such films in the action genre like Hard Boiled, Die Hard and Enter the Dragon.
By the end, it’s quite obvious that Sono’s one overarching goal is just show how stressful and fun making genre films can be. Even though the tone can be as schizophrenic as its characters, Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is a heartfelt, insanity-filled genre movie to its core. Watch it, and let the madness wash over.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? hits theaters and VOD this Friday, November 7.