{Movie Review} Why Don’t You Just Die (2020)

“He did not live to know who the winner was”

Flann O’Brien

Why Don’t You Just Die opens with Matvey our main character standing outside of an apartment in a batman hoodie while wielding a hammer. Its this juxtaposition of pop culture and violence that helps center director Kirill Sokolov’s aesthetic. WDYJD is a violent movie. It also knows entirely what it wants to be and that violence always works towards that end. Our heroes don’t wear capes in this film, mostly they feebly swing a hammer and get beat up. That is my kind of hero.

The Story

Why Don’t you Just Die! follows the story of Matvey as he attempts to kill the father of his girlfriend. The action (and violence) starts about fifteen minutes in and does not let up. The rest of the movie unfurls as four distinct narratives unfold and eventually tie back into Matvey’s. We often see inciting incidents from a myriad of different angles as director Kirill Sokolov weaves four distinct narratives into one cogent and bloody plot. These narratives are never without humor as the characters often react in predictable if not cringe-inducing ways that tend to exacerbate their own predicaments. The movie is intentionally funny. The gore of the film is often played for laughs and purposefully silly. It’s the light-hearted nature of the film that ultimately makes it quite charming. From a writing perspective, it is not anything innovative or spectacular but it’s serviceable and that is all Sokolov needs it to be as the real highlight comes with how the movie is shot.

The Direction

Each different vignette gets its own color palette. The first scene centering around Matvey and our bad dad Andrey has a green and yellow hue that makes us feel like we are in a dark fairytale or perhaps the darker grittier follow up to The Shape of Water (only in color not at all in story). As the palettes change so does the tone. None of the vignettes unfold quite as successfully as the first but as the film hits its final stretch I was genuinely excited to see where the movie ended up. The fight scenes are well choreographed and at times laugh out loud funny. The scenes of gore and violence are intentionally funny and interspliced with hard smash cuts to x-rays as bones are broken and television’s smashed into heads.

Courtesy of Arrow Film

Sokolov’s IMDB argues his work has a Tarantino like feel. If Tarantino were known ONLY for his violence I think this comparison would totally work. The movie doesn’t have Tarantino’s dialogue or perspective. I think a more apt comparison would be early Guy Ritchie who created badass fight scenes, memorable gangsters, and a ton of fun. That is a pretty good description of WDYJD. Couple that with transitional smash cuts and a penchant for dry humor and you find a little Edgar Wright in this movie as well. The movie plays up its physical comedy from time to time giving the Wright comparison a bit more credibility. That comedy is often big and over the top and borders on farcical from time to time (that is not a complaint).

There are a number of shootouts and overly macho guys grimly looking at each other, so in that way, WDYJD feels like a spaghetti western filmed in a Russian apartment building. Again I think that is intentional as Sokolov attempts to have a conversation about machismo and masculinity. The movie’s commentary on headier subjects mostly gets short shrift to the violence and action. Perhaps the most under-explored character in the film is the wife of our corrupt father and mother of Olya, our girlfriend. She spends most of the film cowering from everyone and who ends up as poorly as everyone else. It’s disappointing that we never see her perspective.

At its core WDYJD is a Russian film. It’s mostly about corruption and violence. Two subjects that seem to have dominated the country both on film and in real life. Our hero is our hero simply by surviving. He takes a beating and figures out a way to get through it. One of the main characters asks another character halfway through the second vignette “What about Justice”. I think the point behind WDYJD would be that surviving is its own justice. Survivors get the spoils and in that way, WDYJD is a distinctly Russian movie. I can dig that message. WDYJD is one part Snatch, one part Three Stooges, and one part A Fistful of Dollars. It is well worth your time.


Check out Why Don’t You Just Die! on digital starting April 20th and on Blu-ray April 21st.

Courtesy of Arrow Films

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