Why Don’t You Just Die! (Papa, Sdokhni) (2018)

Why Don’t You Just Die! (Papa, Sdokhni) was written for S&S, although I don’t think it was ever published.

ReviewPapa, Sdokhni, the original Russian title of Why Don’t You Just Die!, translates roughly as “Daddy, die” – and it will come as little surprise that Russian writer/director Kirill Sokolov‘s rambunctious feature debut is a full-blown assault on the patriarchy, as embodied by corrupt, carnivorous cop (and father) Andrey Gennadievitch (Vitaliy Khaev). For Andrey’s greedy, bullying, misogynistic monstrosity will be deconstructed and exposed layer by layer, even as his apartment is gradually torn apart by the events that occur within – and while he may own a mug bearing the caption “World’s Best Dad”, Andrey represents, in all his thuggish, macho swagger, much that is rotten in the state of Russian masculinity.

The film opens as young protagonist Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) arrives at Andrey’s door with a Batman logo emblazoned on his hoodie, a hammer concealed behind his back, and vigilante justice on his mind. Besotted with Andrey’s daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kreghzhde), Matvey has come to avenge the sexual abuse she claims to have suffered as a child at her father’s hands – but he will find himself locked in the middle of a complicated domestic scenario where different kinds of betrayal are coming home to roost, and where everybody, not least the resilient Matvey himself, dies very hard.

Why Don’t You Just Die! fragments the chronology of its story through headed sections, each with its own flashback, but the bulk of the film is, like Yukihiko Tsutsumi’s 2LDK (2003), confined to a modestly-sized middle-class apartment which becomes the improbable arena for all manner of genres: kinetic action, torture porn, bell-ringing farce, double-crossing intrigue, family tragedy and even armed standoffs straight out of a spaghetti western (complete with Morricone-esque horns and strings on the soundtrack). Also the film’s editor, Sokolov displays his impish fluency in the language of cinema, deftly switching its codes and registers between – and even within – scenes, in a hyperactively punkish manner that confounds our perspective (on what is, in essence, a relatively simple story) while liberally splattering everything in irony (as well as blood). 

Garishly lit and often shown in slow motion or from multiple angles, the ultra-violence that peppers the film is definitely of the cartoonish variety, accompanied by kung fu sound effects and sanguinary excess that is soon all over Andrey’s clothing and the apartment walls. The influence of Sergio Leone, Quentin Tarantino and Park Chan-wook is clear to see, but Why Don’t You Just Die! offers filmmaking of such confidently energetic brio, nodding and winking its way through all the depravity and carnage that it so claustrophobically accommodates, that any viewer will be paying close attention next time its director comes a-calling.

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Synopsis: Russia, today. Claiming she was molested as a child, Olya sends her besotted boyfriend Matvey to kill her father Andrey. Matvey visits Andrey and his wife Tasha in their apartment. In an initial fight, Matvey is incapacitated – and an ensuing series of bloodily violent confrontations reveals that Andrey, though no molester (Olya lied), is a corrupt policeman who bullies his wife Tasha, has double-crossed his police partner Yevgenich, and refuses to finance Olya’s pathetic acting career. Yevgenich is shot by Andrey in a standoff, Tasha hangs herself, and Olya and Andrey shoot each other, with Matvey alone emerging from all the carnage, alive if not exactly unscathed.

© Anton Bitel