Written and Directed by: Shion Sono
Take my brain. Remove it from my skull and put it in some sort of magical blender. Take the concoction that results and spread it out over a film screen. The result would be messy and violent. It would be full of optimism, no-budget filmmakers, yakuza gang members, guns, swords, Bruce Lee, blood, sex, and commercial jingles and fun. Somehow, Sion Sono has adapted my brain to the silver screen without – thankfully – having to scoop it out first. WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is the best thing I’ve seen all year. An overdose of brash metacommentary, intentional goofiness and such a rollicking good time that I would have been happy to start watching from the beginning as soon as it ended.
Describing the plot doesn’t quite give a sense of the inspiration on display here. Starting a decade in the past, we follow two distinctly different story threads. The first involves a group of young, overwhelmingly cheerful filmmakers who call themselves the “FUCK BOMBERS”, who force – through sheer enthusiasm – a young thug to be their new action star. Concurrently we follow the plight of a Yakuza boss (the always awesome Jun Kunimura) whose wife fends off an attack from a rival gang, landing her in prison and forcing a popular television advertisement starring her daughter off the air. Jump ahead ten years and the bosses wife is getting out of jail, but the Yakuza boss has promised her that the daughter has been succeeding with film roles – and that he’ll show her a film with the daughter in a featured role when she’s released. Desperate, the two threads come together when the (now grown) FUCK BOMBERS and the Yakuza have to work together to make a movie, while a rival kimono-wearing gang (with a leader who is obsessed with the Bosses’ daughter) is constantly threatening them.
If any of that sounds sensible, believe me, it isn’t. This is a barrage of insanity; an onslaught of gleeful carnage piled on a script written by Sono twenty years ago. It’s also massively entertaining and hardly the calculated cult item that I was expecting. Performances are heightened to the point of absurdity with dialogue that I’m still chuckling at five days later. It’s a love-letter to ambition, a satire of young, brash directors. A mash-up of John Woo, Bruce Lee, Shaw Brothers, Scooby Doo and Sono’s own earlier films, and it’s the most enjoyable two hours I’ve had at the cinema this year. A must see for anyone who reads this site.
Doug “Sweetback” Tilley
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