“One, two, three, evil won’t touch me.”
In the opening scene of Why Don’t You Just Die! (aka Papa, sdokhni, literally Daddy, die), 20-something Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) chants these words, steeling himself to ring the doorbell of an upper-floor apartment. At this point, Matvei’s own intentions seem a little on the evil side. Maybe it’s his close resemblance to treacherous sociopath Renton from Trainspotting (1996), maybe it’s the Batman t-shirt he sports, suggestive of his outlaw allegiances — but most of all it’s the hammer clenched behind his back that clinches our impression that the young man is up to no good. Yet in this rambunctious feature debut from writer/director Kirill Sokolov, good and evil, black and white, right and wrong are not so easy to tell apart, in an allegorical echo of the corrupted Russian society within which the film is set.
Matvei has come to kill Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev), a bullish police detective and father to Matvei’s girlfriend Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde). As their hyperviolent encounter is played out both as Titanic intergenerational struggle between two seemingly unstoppable forces, and as a spaghetti western (complete with standoffs accompanied by grandiose horns and bells on the soundtrack) that is absurdly confined to a Moscow apartment, there is a bloodbath — not to mention a bloody bath — with Matvei sustaining horrific physical damage while just damn refusing to die.
A tripartite series of flashbacks gradually reveals the complicated backstories of vengeance, desperation and betrayal that have led everyone to this chaotic pass. You can feel the guiding hand of Quentin Tarantino and Sion Sono (especially his not dissimilarly titled Why Don’t You Play In Hell?, 2013) all over this film’s mosaic narrative structure, its anything-goes approach to genre and its grotesque brutality – but Sokolov brings a distinctively Russian flavour to his amoral microverse, and directs with an endlessly entertaining, larger-than-life brio that is all his own.