Why Don't You Play in Hell?
Directed by Sion Sono
In Japan, gonzo filmmakers hatch a three-pronged plan to save an actress's career, end a yakuza war and make a hit movie.
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★★★★ review by Todd Gaines on Letterboxd
The Fuck Bombers are misfit wannabee filmmakers who enjoy filming random crazy shit. One day they cross paths with a notorious Yakuza gang and their lives are forever changed in this batshit crazy one-of-a-kind flick from the master of all-things-off-the-wall Mr. Sion Sono. Toothpaste. Raw eggs. Bloody bedroom. The film score is pitch-perfect, super catchy, and makes me want to dance. Chopped carrots. A pool of blood. Yakuza workplace violence. Polite executioners. Grave pillow. Yakuza cool. I want to wear a Kimono. Why does Sasaki dress like the Bride from Kill Bill? Yellow isn't his best color. Perverted peep hole. The red ballon. Shooting a motherfucker like your name is Takeshi "Beat" Kitano. Endangered pussy. Voice-over narration is either a hit or a miss. The narration is good, but not Gone Girl good. Extreme tongue kissin'. Remember Buckcherry and their song Crazy Bitch? I'm pretty sure they're signing about Mitsuko. Color of Money moment. Melodramatic arcade meltdown. Although all of Sono's films I've seen are different in a lot of ways, he's one of the best in portraying the innocence of young love. Yakuza honesty. Ikegami's grin. Projectile vomit. Hirata's extreme ADHD. Dragon moment. Snorting cocaine makes you a better film director. Muto's white hat. Real motherfuckers use samurai swords. Flying head. Da fuck? The climax of Why Don't You Play in Hell is beyond insanity, but what else do you expect from Sion Sono? I'm a huge Sono fan and both Love Exposure and Cold Fish are on my all-time favorites list. This film is one of the most original films of the year and the score is straight money. If you're searching for unique, look no further than Why Don't You Play in Hell.
★★★★ review by davidehrlich on Letterboxd
"Fuck Bombers never die!"
Quite possibly mankind’s greatest achievement, Sion Sono’s “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” is less of a question than it is a glorious grindhouse requiem for an entire mode of filmmaking, and perhaps also Japanese cinema’s formal response to “Holy Motors”. A giddy self-evaluation of the medium that’s thoroughly laced with its maker’s neo-punk spirit, “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” finds Sono returning to the deliriously flip brand of moviemaking upon which he first built his name, a retreat that follows on the heels of two furious dramas about the aftermath of the 3/11 Tōhoku earthquake.
Beginning with an insidiously catchy toothpaste jingle that you’ll be happy to hear again and again (and again) throughout the duration of the film, it’s clear right from the outset that “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” doesn’t coarse with the same feral indignation that colored Sono’s two most recent film. Under the guise of a faux-grainy film affect, Sono’s story immediately introduces us to an inexhaustibly enthusiastic collective of young filmmakers that refer to themselves as “The F**k Bombers.” The group is comprised of Don (the director), and his crew of close-knit chums (which includes the dolly specialist and his permanent pair of roller-skates, his hand-held obsessed girlfriend, and – eventually – an actor who aspires to be Bruce Lee). They shoot on seemingly infinite rolls of 8mm film, and they idolize the projectionist of their local single-screen movie theater. In other words, if Sion Sono didn’t exist, Quentin Tarantino would have to invent him so that Sono could then in turn invent The F**k Bombers.
Through a long and agreeably overcomplicated series of events, the F**k Bombers cross paths with two rival yakuza gangs: there’s Boss Muto and his gaudy minions, all of whom fell directly out of a Kinji Fukasaku B-movie. On the other side of town is the Ikegama clan, whose aesthetic classicism and wild temperament speak to Japan’s rich legacy of jidaigeki (period dramas, most commonly involving samurai). Spanning more than a decade and casually mourning the death of film as both a shooting format and an industry, Sono’s script was written 17 years ago, and tweaked to accommodate the digital revolution (“Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” was rather obviously shot on a crisp digital format, but its excessive use of computer-generated blood feels like a textual cornerstone rather than a contemporary concession).
Sono’s orgiastic kitchen sink fantasia of blood and broken dreams may not have the sweep of his four-hour 2008 masterpiece “Love Exposure”, but the ecstatic insanity of its final act rivals anything that the aging punk auteur has ever made, which Sono’s acolytes understand is not a compliment to be taken lightly. The epic and completely bonkers set piece with which the movie – along with most of the target audience – climaxes, an inevitable showdown between the two yakuza gangs that the F**k Bombers have been invited to stage and shoot as the ultimate snuff film (and a gift for Boss Muto’s wife upon her release from prison), cements “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” as the single bloodiest film since “Ichi the Killer.” The sequence, which counts a simultaneous octuple decapitation among its innumerable moments of inspired gore, also confirms that Sono’s interest in eulogizing 35mm is ultimately eclipsed by his nostalgia for what the format represented, a magical purity that has been suffocated by financial interests (this is hardly the first film to conflate gangsters with movie studios).
More than anything, “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” is a demented ode to a time when movies were made for the love of the game, but Sono has a lucid enough vision of the future to understand that the spirit he’s ennobling can really only exist in retrospect, his latest film itself a testament to the fact that such joyful virtues will always be available to those who need them. Indeed, Sono’s decision to shoot digitally (as if he had a choice) actually underscores the extent to which his movie is less of a tribute to means than it is to methods, and that even the forces that are most insidiously corrupting the film industry can be turned against themselves and used for good. Sono so contagiously imbues his own film with that feeling that its foibles (and there are many) are remembered as charms, the prolific director once again showing a knack for using his seemingly slapdash production method as an expressive force unto itself. The last shot of this movie in particular reveals how Sono’s cinema is predicated on a palpable sense of amateurism, in much the same way that Ingmar Bergman’s pivots on austerity.
“Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” might have been shot digitally, but it feels like a film that’s held together with sprocket repair tape. It’s TIFF press and industry screening was held in a massive modern multiplex, but Sono’s movie transformed the cavernous space into a local cinema club with a paper marquee. “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” is the wantonly violent live-action cartoon that lovers of Japanese film have been waiting for since Masahiro Shinoda’s “Killers on Parade”. Sono doesn’t care to put you in touch with your inner 12-year-old, he makes you realize how glad you are to be an adult, and be able to buy a ticket to a movie like this.
★★★★ review by Esteban Gonzalez on Letterboxd
“This movie exists only to impress you.”
Acclaimed Japanese director, Shion Sono (Love Exposure, Suicide Club, Coldfish) has crafted a delirious and extremely over the top comedic action thriller which will surely impress audiences all around the globe. It’s very difficult to try to write a review for a film like this that seems to be all over the place. It was a truly unique and crazy experience. At first it feels like the stories aren’t related, but as the film progresses every single scene serves a purpose and it all comes together at the end. Sono is an artist and in this film we can see the passion he has with film. This is his love letter to 35mm filmmaking and he mixes several genres into one glorious experience. In a way it is similar to what Quentin Tarantino brings to his films. Over the top violent action sequences with a lot of fake CGI blood, a lot of humor thrown into the mix, and several movie references. Just like Tarantino referenced Bruce Lee in Kill Bill through Uma Thurman, there is a character here who also resembles Lee in his yellow and black uniform. However Sono doesn’t follow a similar narrative structure as Tarantino and doesn’t rely as much on the wise cracking dialogue. WDYPIH? has a very unique structure and it’s hard to know what direction its heading at times because it seems to be all over the place. It is a crazy experience, but it is hard to resist. My only complaint is with the pacing of the film which at times seems to drag. I had fun with this movie, but I still found myself checking my watch once in a while. This could’ve been better if it was cut to around 90 minutes, but it is still a film I admire very much.
The film centers on a group of young film aficionados who dream and pray to the movie god that he allow them to make an epic film, but it is clear they aren’t heading anywhere when ten years later all they’ve managed to do is make a one minute trailer. There is also a huge confrontation going on between two yakuza clans. The Kitagawa yakuza clan attacked the Muto yakuza clan at their leader’s own home. Muto wasn’t around, but his wife faced them off leaving a pool of blood behind. Due to the violent scene, the police never believed it was self defense and imprisoned Muto’s wife for ten years. Their young daughter had a successful toothpaste commercial taken off the air as well due to the violent episode. Her dreams of becoming a successful actress were shattered by the removal of the commercial. The clans have declared a truce but as Muto’s wife sentence is approaching its deadline war breaks out again between them. Muto must manage the confrontation while delivering on his promise to his wife of having her daughter become the star of a movie by the time she is released. He promises it will be epic and through fate he encounters these aspiring film aficionados who are given the perfect scenario to make the film they’ve been dreaming of making for the past ten years. Everything seems to be leading to an outrageously bloody conclusion as Muto plans to kill two birds with one stone.
Shine Sono’s love and passion for Japanese cinema can be experienced here in this unique and extremely crazy love letter to film. It is over the top and full of energy, but it always remains imaginative. It is unlike any other film I’ve seen and manages to capture that nostalgic sense of a disappearing art form while remaining incredibly unique and energetic. This is an extremely violent and irreverent film, but it is so over the top that it never feels gory. It can become a bit tedious due to its long running time, but the ending fulfills and it is a film that will stick with you long after the credits role. The performances from Jun Kunimura as Muto, Shin’ichi Tsutsumi as Ikegami, and Itsuji Itao as Masuda stand out in this wacky and crazy film.
★★★½ review by Naughty aka Juli Norwood on Letterboxd
Shion Sono's nostalgic love letter to himself counting all the ways he loves old school cinema! A tribute if you will to 35mm film, to the obsession that exists on both sides of a camera, to turning your epic fantasy into an epic film even though for most mortals too much water had already passed under the bridge! For Shion Sono his love and passion for filmmaking are timeless!
A frenetic excursion into gorilla filmmaking taken well beyond the extreme! The director's behind this film and within the film are both driven to the brink of madness in their quest to give their celluloid lovechild immortality on the Silver Screen!
Like all children the film can and does become annoying and at other times darn right amazing! It's often hyper and chaotic! But you love it all the more for its flaws and little idiosyncrasies!
It is often funny, other times it is gloriously demented and wicked! There's no time to put "baby" in the corner because "baby" has gained alot of momentum and there's no stopping it now it's on a mission and it's NOT from God!
Graphic violence and gore become the rule not the exception during the grand finale of all finales!
★★★★½ review by PacificBeliefs on Letterboxd
JAPANESE BRUCE LEE!
GORE! GORE! GORE!
My god, that film was tremendously insane.
Channelling Tarantino, Carax, Kurosawa, Takashi Miike & Gondry all at once in a dazzling rainbow of blood, guts and flying limbs.
You'll laugh so hard that you wince and you'll wince so hard that you laugh.
The hilarious camera-mugging by all on screen meant that the film operated at such a frenzied level it makes hysterical wailing banshees seem subtle.
The most fun you can have in a cinema with your trousers on.
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