So many films across the gamut of grindhouse wannabes focus all their energy on pulpy dialogue, frantic editing, and western pastiche. They throw every editing convention and digital trick they have at trying to evoke the feeling of a Tarantino-style throwback, but without any of the execution. Why Don’t You Just Die! threatens that same tacky quality straight down to the exclamation point in its title. The key difference here is that its exclamation is very much earned.
This Russian bloodbath can’t escape some low-budget crime film faux pas. Drops of water from a faucet sound like bowling balls falling into a lake, every zoom is matched with a sweeping sound effect. There’s a very on-the-nose cover of “House of the Rising Sun” in its soundtrack. A short scene is filmed like a sort of slideshow for no discernible reason.
Like the feet that slip and slide through the streams of blood that slick the Gennadievitch family’s floor, Why Don’t You Just Die! could have fallen like so many others. The difference here is that, though choices made in post are eye-rollers that steal some of the film’s punch, it’s impossible to deny the fact that the brawls, torture, dismemberment, and gunplay that has been captured on film is nothing short of a pure adrenaline rush.
Why Don’t You Just Die!
Director: Kirill Sokolov
Release: April 10, 2020 (VOD, Limited)
Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) is a man in a Batman hoodie, therefore here’s our hero. It can be a bit hard to tell as the film opens with him clutching a hammer and knocking on the door of his girlfriend Olya’s (Evgeniya Kregzhde) father’s apartment. He’s here to kill Andrey Gennadievitch (Vitaliy Khaev), a bald brick house of a detective. When Andrey answers the door, it’s clear he’s not going to go down without a fight.
Almost instantly a brawl ensues that sees furniture shattered, a shotgun fired, heads cracked open, and a fantastic slow-motion shot of a TV (the old fat-back type) shattering into Matvey’s face. It’s as exhilarating and well-choreographed as Avengement, and the film does little to break that impact going forward. A leg gets drilled to shreds in a bathtub, a man holds in his own guts after a shotgun tears his stomach to pulp, blood streams from a woman’s neck as she falls backward in a wonderful shot reminiscent of the camera work in Bliss.
Everyone is beaten to hell and back farther than any human body ought to go, giving Why Don’t You Just Die! a well-earned title. All of this is tied with the expected pulpy sleaze of crooked cops, dirty money, femme fatales, lies, and backstabbings. It reinvents nothing but executes its pastiche with energetic glee.
Sprinkled through the central apartment battle are flashbacks for each character — also a handy tutorial on lock-picking handcuffs –. Though each skip through time flirts with killing the momentum, all are spare and draw just enough insight into the film’s lurid world that you never feel them drag. The dialogue is direct and genuine, never trying to say more than it needs. Even the soundtrack, for all its kitsch, grows on you as you ride its pulpy waves. One song is just varying harmonies of “Fuck You” sung over and over, so how can I be too down on it?
If you’ve seen any crime movies at all, then you’ve seen Why Don’t You Just Die! It’s pure genre. You know its rogues gallery. You know its suitcase of cash. You know its flashbacks and its knotted plot. That much is true, but genre is comfort food, and Why Don’t You Just Die! is a steaming bowl of borscht with a stiff shot of a vodka. If you need to unwind to a familiar romp as tawdry and violent as it is fun, Why Don’t You Just Die! is just the flick you need.