Title: Why Don’t You Play In HellDirector: Sion Sono
Starring: Jun Kunimura, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Fumi Nikaido, Tomochika, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino
Plot: Ten years ago, the Kitagawa yakuza clan led an assault against rival don Muto (Kunimura), which saw Muto’s wife (Tomochika) being imprisoned. The retaliation for this attack would leave the Kitagawa clan in ruins and their top hitman Ikegmai (Tsutsumi) wounded. Muto however was left more concerned that his daughter Mitsuko’s tootpaste commercial was axed due to his criminal activities being exposed. Now Ikegami has taken over the Kitagawa clan vowing revenge, while Muto is more concerned about the imminent release of his wife and for her to see Mitsuko (Nikaido) star in her first movie. Here we meet “The Fuck Bombers” and enthusiastic group of wannabe filmmakers, whose dreams stretch well beyond their means who find themselves drawn into a madcap scheme to film the climactic battle between the two Yakuza clans.
Review: Right now having read the plot for this movie, you no doubt been left scratching you head as to how any of it could possibly make any kind of sense, much like the prospect I once more found myself in how I could actually start to review this movie. This is film making not for the faint hearted while at the same time this remains too much of a fascinating film to not attempt to get some form of thoughts down.
I first heard about this film through Jess over at "French Toast Sunday" and which is based on a screenplay written by director Sion Sono 15 years ago it feels almost like a tribute to sort of Yakuza epic he perhaps dreamed of making as a younger film maker, while he describes it as “an action film about the love of 35mm” making it as much of a film about the love of film making as it is of the Yakuza dramas it parodies.
Opening with the young Misuko performing in her toothpaste commercial which it soon becomes clear as the film progresses forms the unusual epicentre of this universe, as even ten years after it was axed it remains a shared memory with characters frequently bursting into spontaneous enactments of the commercial whenever mentioned. At the same time we are also introduced to the fuck bombers led by the eternally enthusiastic Hirata (Hasegawa) whose bring a who new meaning to the word Guerrilla filmmaker as they shot on the fly, incorporating anything they find of interest into their film projects which generally resemble budget remakes of Bruce Lee movies. This is of course we see the young Mitsuko stumbling into the aftermath of a failed Yakuza attack and the bodies of the gangsters her mother has just recently dispatched off, the floor filled with blood which suddenly turns into a warped slip and slide. This essentially is the getting off point for the film as things certainly only get weirder and more random from this point onwards.
While the film is multi-threaded in its construction for the most part it resolves around Misuko who in the ten years which have passed as gone from being a sweet little girl into a rebellious teen who having run away from one film production, now heads off again picking up the wide eyed Koji (Hoshino) to play her pretend boyfriend and later to pass off to her father as the only director she will work with despite not knowing the first thing about movie making. While Sono could have easily based the film around his feisty leading lady, his ambition much like the Fuck Bombers is seemingly limitless, as he finds times to work in ample time for the various other subplots at play such as Ikegmai taking over as head of his yakuza clan who he’s changed from their tailored suits to instead favouring komodo’s through to the Fuck Bombers who are just about ready to call time on their dream as the group is faced with the reality that they aren’t going to make the masterpiece they feel they are destined to make only to soon find themselves the answer to Koji’s prayers.
The film moves with such frenzied pace it hard to believe that the film has the generous run time, while some might be a little frustrated that the film spends the first thirty minutes setting the film up only to then skip ten years into the future. Sono however shoots the film with such high energy and inventiveness it envelops you to the point where you never question the frequently illogical or more surreal moments that are scattered throughout the film. True these moments have frequently been the trademark of Soto’s films
Needless to say the real draw here is the anarchic finale which has rightfully drawn comparisons to Kill Bill’s house of blue leaves showdown, even though here it is certainly not shot with any of the artistic flair that Yuen Wo Ping brought with his fight choreography, but instead here Sono aims for frenzied enthusiasm as blood flies in arterial sprays, limbs lopped off and a body count which easily goes into double figures as he finds ever more inventive ways for the two rival yakuza to dispatch each other. While all this is going on we also have Hirata screaming directions and even stopping an opening skirmish and requesting that everyone go back to their places so that he can reshoot it. Unquestionably it’s an exciting sequence and one only held back by the use of CGI for most of the blood effects.
Easily one of the more accessible films in the directors back catalogue, this is a truly unique and high energy entry point to his work, while it stands truly on its own merits for its fierce originality as it remains another film to be experienced to truly appreciate what could certainly be considered one of the most fiercely original films of recent years.