Why Don’t You Just Die! Review

Why Don't You Just Die
Twentysomething Russian man Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) pays a visit to the apartment of his girlfriend’s parents in order to settle a score, only to find that her thuggish police detective father won’t go down without a fight — and isn’t afraid to use every weapon at his disposal.

by Nikki Baughan |
Published on
Release Date:

24 Apr 2020

Original Title:

Why Don’t You Just Die!

It all starts with a series of extreme close-ups, setting the scene in seconds. A hesitant finger over a doorbell; a pair of fearful eyes; a hammer clutched behind a back. And that effective command of the visual language infuses Russian writer/director Kirill Sokolov’s ultra-violent chamber piece Why Don’t You Just Die!, elevating it above standard genre fare into something altogether more sophisticated.

The finger, eyes and hammer belong to Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), a young man paying a visit to the apartment of Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) and Tasha (Elena Shevchenko); the parents of his girlfriend Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde). Why he needs a weapon is initially unclear, although there’s an atmosphere of menace from the moment Matvei locks the front door behind him. And, indeed, after a tense exchange it’s not long before all hell breaks loose, as Matvei and Andrey attempt to kill each other in the confines of the small flat.

Aleksandr Kuznetsov is particularly good as the increasingly bewildered Matvei.

To delve into the hows and whys would be to dilute the jaw-dropping entertainment value of Why Don’t You Just Die!; suffice it to say that, amidst the bloody carnage (and, while it plays more as farce than torture porn, Matvei and Andrey make use of every item at their disposal, from TV sets to power drills), Sokolov hasn’t skimped on story, crafting a tightly plotted narrative that takes in lies, corruption and double-crossings. As more players enter the scene, including Andrey’s detective partner Yevgenich (Mikhail Gorevoy) and Olya herself, loyalties are tested and change the game.

Further puzzle pieces come in the form of well-executed flashbacks (of Matvei and Olya in more intimate times, of Matvei in his school days) and clever asides (the playing of a YouTube video of handcuff-breaking, an X-ray of a broken hand), enabling Sokolov to flesh out events beyond the four blood-spattered walls.

He’s helped by some excellent performances that bring a surprising depth of character; Kuznetsov is particularly good as the increasingly bewildered Matvei, while Khaev is terrifyingly bullish as Andrey, a man you wouldn’t cross unless you had a damn good reason. Central, too, is the combination of astonishingly bravura camera work from Dmitriy Ulyukaev and Sokolov’s editing, which combines tight close-ups with frantic movement. Expertly deployed slow motion captures both the mayhem and moments of surprising beauty: glistening shards of glass from a smashed television screen; a bright-red fountain of arterial spray; the vibrant splash of blood against a beige bathroom suite. Equally, as immersive sound design heightens every sickening bone-break, while the rip-roaring soundtrack riffs on everything from Westerns to Mafia dramas, and wryly takes in songs like Jenia Lubich’s ‘Russian Girl (I’ve Got Vodka In My Blood)’. It’s all an absolute blast.

A rip-roaring, bloody slice of Russian genre cinema that combines a tightly plotted narrative with a stylish command of craft to hugely entertaining, immersive effect.
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