Monday, March 2, 2015

Why Don't You Play in Hell?


  This is a movie about a group of young amateur filmmakers who through a series of wild coincidences end up in the middle of a brutal Yakuza feud, and with the participation of both sides, set out to document their climactic bloody showdown... as an action movie. Let all that sink in for a moment. Crazy, right? Well however crazy you think it sounds, the movie is crazier. It's a drama, a comedy, and on the outside edge, it is an action movie... within an action movie. I didn't watch the trailer for it, and stumbled onto it via a random suggestion on an internet message board. Best random suggestion ever? It just might be. Why Don't You Play In Hell? is like a Japanese Tarantino flick turned sideways. It's amazing.

  This movie is all over the place, tonally. Parts feel like a childhood adventure movie with a gang like The Goonies, and other parts feel like A Better Tomorrow, or a Chan-wook Park film. It's everywhere, all over the place. It doesn't ever really settle into one mood. Yet it decides on a style very early on. The movie is abuzz with an infectious frenetic energy that brings even the most mundane moments to life in spectacular fashion. Characters boldly strut into scenes, quickly state their business, and before we know it, we're at the next scene watching someone else do something. It's so tightly edited that we feel like the movie's moving along at a breakneck pace.

  This is good... and bad. On one hand, the movie isn't actually moving as fast as you might think. In fact, it drags a bit in the first half. On the other hand, the fact that we feel like it's speeding by helps to cover up the fact that in reality, it's lagging. You almost can't complain because the movie is full of madcap characters in even crazier lives. You can be certain the movie starts in reality, but after a certain point, reality is subjective in this movie. It's over-the-top nature has us seeing things that couldn't normally happen. Most of the times, this is for either shock effect, or a strong visual effect. It works incredibly well either way.

  For all that alone, I recommend this movie. It's insane, it's off the wall, and it's the kind of movie we don't get enough of. It's honestly about the love of movies and filmmaking. At times, it's downright endearing, and then before you know it, it's dangerous and serious. Somewhere in the middle of those two things, it's also ridiculously funny. You can't find a better cinematic grab bag anywhere. Unfortunately, it's feel good tone wasn't meant to last. The ending is actually quite disturbing, but in a very sad way it makes sense with the internal logic of the movie. I don't wanna give it away, because it's still awesome, but at the same time... I didn't walk away feeling so great. And with a movie about childhood dreams, true love, and following your dreams... the ending was real downcast.

  Again, on the flip side, it's also a movie about the Yakuza and the consequences of violence and revenge. A lesser movie would feel uneven, but not this one. It juggles all of it really well. It does slip up here and there, where we go for long stretches of time without seeing certain main characters as the story sidelines them completely. It's only then does the movie feel a bit disjointed. The payoff is fantastic though. When all the characters inevitably get together and the stories all converge, it's freaking great. No complaints there.

  The acting is fantastic, pretty much across the board. Again, the world of this movie has it's own set of rules. Characters age ten years, and still wear the same clothes. So when someone is hamming it up or chewing the scenery... it fits. Moreover, it's that kind of energetic insanity that permeates this movie on just about every level. From the music to the settings, and especially the visuals. The casting is great, and the characters are great. It might feel like a bit much at times, but like I said, when everything comes together, it's great. Not unlike a bunch of puzzle pieces clicking into place and somehow the final image is crazier than you could've possibly expected.

  It's a sideways meta movie that's a movie inside of another movie. And while Why Don't You Play In Hell? could've been stronger, a little more refined, but I feel that the answer to that is within the movie itself. Sometimes you don't have all the time in the world to get it right, you just have to be in the moment and get it made. What ever you come up with is a labor of love. Which is definitely written all over this movie. It's certainly not perfect, and has a fair share of issues, but it's a damn fun trip that had me laughing and gritting my teeth throughout. If you're looking for something crazy that'll hold your attention, you could a lot worse than this movie. If you ever get the chance, check it out. I definitely think more people should see it.

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