Film titles are tricky. They can be a misleading or only barely hint at what the film is about or they might seem completely disconnected from the film and its themes. Why Don’t You Just Die! is a refreshingly honest title to this little Russian action thriller.
The film begins when a nervous young man hides a hammer behind his back and rings a doorbell of a flat somewhere in Russia. A man opens the door and soon a fight ensues. What follows is a gleefully violent tale with very little context, making things all the more fun. The young man is Matvey, boyfriend of Olya and the flat belongs to Olya’s parents. Matvey is there to kill Olya’s bullish and brute father Andrey for reasons still unknown to the audience, but writer-director Kirill Sokolov will reveal all in due time. Andrey, however, won’t give up that easily and Matvey really just won’t die despite Andrey’s best efforts at getting rid of the young man.
There is very little story present here and most of the film explores the ways that the two men try to off each other. This might sound like a criticism, but the film is superbly paced and ridiculously fun to watch. If you can stomach a lot of gore and violence, it doesn’t get much better than Why Don’t You Just Die! (originally titled Papa, sdokhni which translates to daddy, die. Poetic, isn’t it?)
It’s a simple premise and while the narrative isn’t particularly profound or complicated, the execution is imaginative enough and it makes the most out of the small apartment set up. Morals are explored here, but our protagonist Matvey is delightfully straight forward; he’s here to kill Andrey and that’s all that matters. He isn’t interested in getting involved in any of the other politics, all he needs is to kill the man and then get out alive.
We soon learn that Andrey is a police detective and a very corrupt one too as revealed through some fun flashbacks. He isn’t intimidated by this little punk coming to kill him, instead he quickly overpowers Matvey and ties him up in the bathroom. Because of the initial premise, the film doesn’t offer that many surprises along the way. You have a 90-minute runtime, you know Matvey is going to be alive for most of those 90 minutes but watching the events unfold is entertaining enough. There are a few genuinely surprising moments and the film isn’t coy about its influences, mixing violent thriller with spaghetti western in a gloriously blood-soaked manner that might make Quentin Tarantino blush.
Alexandr Kuznetsov is great as Matvey; he doesn’t speak much but he doesn’t have to. We see and experience the events of the film through his eyes and most of the enjoyment comes from watching Matvey try to outsmart Andrey or simply observe the ridiculousness around him when more and more people get involved. Vitaliy Khaev is equally entertaining as Andrey, even if the character seems to lean heavily into some less-than-great stereotypes of Russian men. Thankfully the film plays everything with tongue firmly in cheek to refrain from being problematic. Why Don’t You Just Die! could have probably benefited from having some more meat on its bones, a little more hiding underneath all the bloodletting but it works fine as escapist entertainment.
This is a wildly violent film but a stylish one. It never aspires to John Wick -style violence, but all sequences are staged beautifully and the action is dynamic and interesting. The tone is light and comical, but the violence never becomes cartoon-like, retaining the edge needed to make the violence hit home. The sound design supports the endlessly inventive visuals, making Why Don’t You Just Die! a visceral film experience. It never takes itself too seriously, focusing on entertainment and spectacle instead of social commentary. But make no mistake, this is a very impressive and smart debut from Sokolov, who shows great promise as a director.
Dir: Kirill Sokolov
Scr: Kirill Sokolov
Cast: Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, Evgeniya Kregzhde
Prd: Sofiko Kiknavelidze
DOP: Dmitriy Ulyukaev
Music: QP, Sergey Solovev
Run time: 99 minutes
Why Don’t You Just Die! is available on Blu-ray and Digital HD from 20th April and will be on the Arrow Video Channel from 4th May 2002