Starring Alexander Kuznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, Evgeniya Kregzhde
Written by Kirill Sokolov
Directed by Kiriall Sokolov
Granted, there probably aren’t a lot of reviews out there comparing Why Don’t You Just Die with James Cameron’s Avatar but there is a through line: Tell the simplest story in a daringly imaginative way. First-time writer/director Kiriall Sokolov takes a timeless tale of honor begetting violence and injects it with the kind of ingenuity we’ve seen from Russian filmmakers for generations. That same display of ingenuity can be seen right now as Russian director Timur Bekmambetov works on his WW2 film, V2. Escape From Hell, that’s set to be the first blockbuster ever released in vertical format as opposed to the traditional horizontal format. Sokolov is a long way from that kind of mastery but he and his team have crafted some incredibly inventive shots that harken back to the inventiveness of French duo Jeunet & Caro.
Divided up into four parts and gallons of blood, the story settles on a bewildered millennial named Matvei (Alexander Kuznetsov) determined to avenge his girlfriend Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde) from her abusive and overbearing father Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev). A corrupt cop who may have skimmed a little off the top at a few misguided raids, Andrei bides his time, waiting for Matvei to make a mistake. Other characters and plot developments keep things interesting, but it’s really the final showdown we’re all waiting for. It’s no surprise that Why Don’t You Just Die was a breakout at film festivals like Fantaspoa and Fantastic Fest – it’s exactly the kind of visual wrecking ball that widens the eyes of programmers.
The mad flourishes of hyper violence and camera swoops are electric, and director of photography Dmitriy Ulyukaev deserves credit for accomplishing a lot of Sokolov’s vision. There’s a youthful, raw kinetic energy in full breakout mode and it will serve Sokolov well to carry that through his burgeoning career. Why Don’t You Just Die is an undeniable crowd pleaser, even if that crowd may just consist of you and your girlfriend or family at home right now. Arrow Video had planned an April 10 theatrical run in the US and the UK but, unfortunately for the filmmakers and theater goers, we will only get a chance to see this technical marvel on the small screen. Still, Arrow deserves applause for getting this movie into the hands of genre lovers through the usual digital pathways on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play and more.
Sokolov’s debut maintains the energy of some of the American indie breakouts of the nineties and, sure, It’s more flash than substance, but the director has plenty of time to dig a little deeper in future films. While not exactly a textbook example of Tarkovsky’s idea of poetic cinema, Why Don’t You Just Die is decidedly Russian through and through. Sokolov and his team seem to be students of the craft, and it’s an absolute blast seeing them bash their way through the walls of Russian cinema to make something of their own. The fact that they have a claw hammer in hand makes it all the more satisfying to watch.
Now available nationwide on Digital HD!
You know how lucky you are…when you rent this festival standout from Russia.