Friday, November 7, 2014

WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL? Review - Jonesy's Take

Directed by: Shion Sono
Written by: Shion Sono
Starring: Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino, Akihiro Kitamura, and Jun Kunimura
Synopsis: A young film crew gets entangled between two warring Japanese mobs. 

There's nothing more fun than a balls-to-the-wall, highly stylized, and crazy-fun action film. Few films can actually keep the momentum of craziness throughout without feeling tired, but WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL? not only keeps the momentum and energy until the very last frame, but ends up being extremely hilarious and fantastic.

There are two warring yakuzas (a Japanese version of the American mob) who are vying for power. There's Muto's mob, who end up helping him propel his feisty daughter, Mitsuko, into the movie business after she had a successful run in a toothpaste ad as a child. This is all for his wife, who is just days from being released from jail because she killed multiple members of the rival yakuza, led by Ikegami, and just wants to see her daughter succeed as a film star. A group of filmmakers called The Fuck Bombers ends up getting mixed up in the rivalry through various circumstances, and it all culminates to one of the most insane and blood-soaked climaxes I've ever seen.

This film is a combo of crime thriller, bloody action, and quirky comedy all neatly rolled into one unbelievably fun ride. The characters are larger than life making the film almost feel like a melodrama. And thankfully, the stylized silliness never wears out its welcome. To fully enjoy this film, you have to buy into the ridiculousness right away. But once you're in, every minute is pure joyful craziness. Once all parties converse together in the end, the action could have easily gotten convoluted and messy. But thankfully, it doesn't. Sono's direction gives the fight scene a cohesive, though very violent, flow and is able to build some subtle tension. Even halfway through the sequence, it was difficult to tell who was going to live and who was going to die. Everyone was at risk. It was a refreshing change from the typical action film in which it's easy to decipher who will survive.

Even though this film is pumped to the brim with B-movie level gore, the performances are what keeps the movie somewhat grounded. First, Fumi Nikaido as the hopefully blossoming starlet, Mitsuko, has a tough job of balancing the tough, mob daughter role and wanting to have some freedom and independence. Nikaido perfectly encapsulates Mitsuko's struggle and manages to be be both menacing and vulnerable when needed. The other standout performance was the leader of the rivaling yakuza, Inkegami, played by Shinichi Tsutsumi. Even though he's supposed to be the hardcore leader, he shows his softer side when he talks about his crush on Misuko. Tsutsumi ends up giving the best comedic performance in the film when he splashes his dopey smile on his face when thinking about his crush or making his gang wear kimonos for more than half the film because it gives them a sense of determination.

While I was lucky enough to see the "director's cut" version of this film, there is a version floating around that is considerably shorter. Even without seeing the trimmed down version, the director's cut is the version you need to seek out. The absolutely lunacy and stylized craziness this film projects isn't seen that often nowadays. And that will make you love this film even more.

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