Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why Don't You Play in Hell? (2013): Insanity begat from previous insanity

Why Don’t You Play In Hell? (2013)
Dir: Sion Sono

SIFF 2014 Film #3

I find it hard to believe Sion Sono’s claim that Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is based on a 15-year-old screenplay, which would originate it in 1998. There are so many parts of Why Don’t You Play in Hell? that steal from other films that came in the 2000s, to the point that it’s hard to believe they weren’t influences on even the first draft.

Why Don’t You Believe in Hell? is divided into three sections: about 10 years ago, the present, and the finale. About 10 years ago, we’re introduced to The Fuck Bombers, who are a bunch of teens whose dream in life is to make movies. They film using 8mm, and happen upon a fourth friend who liked to play as the Yakuza. But, they make him into a Bruce Lee story. We’re also introduced to Mitsuko, the daughter of a major Yakuza boss, Muto. Muto has been targeted by a competing boss, but all the assassins were foiled by Muto’s wife. The wife is jailed for killing the assassins and creating chaos, while Muto kills the competing Yakuza boss, letting a younger assassin take over.

In the present, Muto is trying to get Mitsuko into the movie business, while the competition is trying to assassinate Muto (again) and The Fuck Bombers haven’t become a success, and Mitsuko runs away and gets a guy to be her pretend boyfriend for the day. All these stories interweave in a way that can easily be imagined, but is still fun to play out, and ends with an anarchic blowout that is amazing!

The main problem with Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is that it is 127 minutes long, and completely drags in the middle acts of the film. The tangles of the movie just get overbearing with scenes that ultimately don’t even matter, and the film could stand with 20-30 minutes of the movie being chopped, easily. As a 90-100 minute grindhouse explosion, this would be a blast. But, at the full 127 minutes, the movie just has too heavy a middle, and cannot sustain its established pacing.

The minor problem is that Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is a complete ode to Kill Bill and the movies of Takeshi Miike. There are fountains of blood, beheadings, dismemberment, and various other fun bits of ultraviolence. It’s very self-conscious about it too, with the score taking a lot of themes from the other movies, especially that of Santa Esmerelda’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” which played so heavily a role in Kill Bill Vol 1. Sion Sono is doing nothing interesting with the references, and is merely stealing the scenes and themes outright.

That being said…Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is really fun when it is fun. For all it’s pacing problems, and even in spite of (or because of) the rip off elements, Sion Sono knows how to turn on the insanity and make a compelling image. His visuals are frequently stunning (even when they’re ripped off from Tarantino and Miike), and the movie is completely hilarious. It feels like a snotty punk riff on the genres which while not entirely fresh is still fun as hell.

Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is recommended for a lot of Japanese insanity reasons, but you may need to keep the fast forward button handy in order to skim past the scenes that don’t matter, of which there are plenty. In fact, just watch the opening act, and the final sequences and trust that the middle was middling.

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