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Simon Read [Celluloid 04.20.20] Russia comedy drama

Writer/director Kirill Sokolov's feature debut Why Don't You Just Die! is a stylish and grisly dark comedy about greed and corruption in modern Russia. Set almost entirely within a small Moscow apartment over the course of one day, the story involves Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), a young man charged by his girlfriend, Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde ) to murder her abusive father, Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) . Naturally, this proves more difficult than anticipated, and within the first five minutes the film has wasted no time in delivering some eye-popping and expertly choreographed violence.

Through flashbacks we learn more about our players. Andrey is a corrupt cop with more than a few skeletons in his closet; Olya's motivations are less about revenge than sheer avarice; and when Andrey's partner, Yevgenich (Michael Gor) arrives on the scene, we discover a deep treachery between the two men. It seems only Matvey, increasingly out of his depth, is the only innocent in this rogues gallery, but will he escape with his limbs in tact?

Sokolov's approach to style is distinctive and immediately apparent. There are clear shades of Edgar Wright and early Sam Raimi in his use of extreme but resolutely comedic violence, while the film's use of flashbacks and cutaway sequences is reminiscent of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie's gangster movies. Far from being derivative however, the film uses these visual tricks to create a complicated moral web between characters, all while maintaining a fairly breezy, anything goes kind of vibe. As secrets are revealed and characters become ever more unhinged and beaten up, the final act is a last-man-standing affair in which we second guess who (if anyone) will be walking away from this bloodbath.

Why Don't You Just Die! occasionally feels like an excuse for a series of manufactured moments, confrontations and set pieces set to a Morricone-style western score, and edited with hyperactive abandon, and while questions of ethics and the loss of innocence are weaved into the narrative, it is essentially a great big gory romp. There's nothing wrong with this, of course; at this point in time we could all use 90 minutes of pure escapism, but much of the action does feel slightly sarcastic, lacking in depth despite the impressive level of craft on display. Nevertheless, it is an undeniably enjoyable ride.

This is not a film to watch on your own, on a laptop, for review, but rather one to check out during a rowdy midnight screening at a horror festival. So, while cinemas may be closed for the time being, if you can arrange a live viewing with friends (and vodka) through online social media you'll enjoy it a whole lot more.

Why Don't You Just Die! is available on VOD on April 20.

Recommended Release: Evil Dead 2

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