‘Why Don’t You Just Die!’ Review: Attempted Murder, but Make It Comedy

There’s a sense in which this Russian film, a raucous, violent comedy of vengeance written and directed by Kirill Sokolov, may immediately feel familiar — at least if you’re a genre film aficionado. Its early shots show our hero, so to speak — Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), a young fellow with an unusually shaped nose wearing a sweatshirt with a Batman symbol on it — standing outside of an apartment, slightly nervous, and not without reason. He’s holding a new-looking steel hammer behind his back.

Matvey gathers the nerve to ring the bell, and it’s answered by the bullet-headed middle-aged detective Andrei (Vitaly Khaev), a stocky man with a shaved dome and an irascible demeanor. And he only gets more annoyed once he learns Matvey’s hammer is meant for his skull.

As the film’s title indicates, things don’t go as planned.

Sokolov’s debut feature is a clever, bloody as hell, often hilarious virtuoso exercise in excruciating harm-doing among mendacious people. Andrei has never met Matvey, but Matvey loves Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), Andrei’s daughter; as a flashback reveals, Olya has pushed the wide-eyed and credulous Matvey to kill her father with a tale of childhood rape.

The jaunty tone of the movie would be utterly distasteful were Olya’s story true. But that tone also tips off the savvy viewer that something else is up. When Andrei blasts Matvey with a shotgun, blowing apart one of his sofa cushions, which in turn expectorates a bunch of American dollars, those deeper motives becomes obvious.

The stray buckshot that Matvey catches is just the opening flesh wound in his exchange of blows with Andrei, which more or less fills the running time. Matvey gets a large tube television smashed into his face, in slow motion. Then Andrei does some nasty stuff to him with a power drill. Through it all, Matvey refuses to kick the bucket. He’s persistent in other respects as well. Once handcuffed in a bathtub, he extracts a bobby pin from the tub’s drain using his tongue to free himself. This is one of the least of his feats of derring-do.

All of this is shot and edited with exemplary brio and color, and accompanied by a score (by Vadim QP and Sergey Solovyov) whose Ennio Morricone pastiches add amusing notes of faux grandeur. The nods to Morricone are also, of course, nods to Quentin Tarantino. But the depiction of a social order in which almost every participant is a gangster of some sort, and the mordant humor the movie finds in this, is Russian through and through.

Why Don’t You Just Die!

Not rated. In Russian, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. Rent or buy on Amazon, AppleTV and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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