Matvey has just one objective: to gain entry to his girlfriend’s parents’ apartment and kill her father Andrey with a hammer to restore her honour. But Matvey’s attempts to bludgeon the family patriarch to death don’t quite go to plan as Andrey proves a more formidable opponent than he anticipated… and Matvey, for his part, proves stubbornly unwilling to die.
Comedy-Horror Why Do’t You Just Die? is so blood-spattered it’s hard to work out where the coagulating gore ends and the ornate red flock wallpaper starts.
It is also incredibly violent, as Matvey and his girlfriend’s dad Andrey attack each other with knives, guns, a drill and at one point a TV.
It starts with a hammer though, which Matvey (Aleksandr Kuznetsov) holds behind his back in an institutional-looking corridor while waiting for Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) to open the door to his apartment. I just knew Andrey would look like one of the Mitchell brothers from Eastenders, and boy was I right. It’s rather fitting considering this is all about fammmleeee, most of whom don’t seem to like each other much.
Andrey’s daughter Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde, perfectly manipulative) has confided in Matvey that Andrey abused her, and asked him to kill her dad for her. The two men’s first fight – in her parents’ spacious apartment – plays out like a pattern of tumbling dominoes, as they crash around the room.
Andrey is a cop, quite a dodgy one, and as the two men scrap, a bag of money bursts and notes fly around the room. Later he invites his fellow cop Evgenich (Michael Gor) round, and there’s a flashback (one of several) to a case they worked on involving a torture chamber and an unattached head. Dare I say it’s funny?
For poor Matvey it’s like a game of wack-a-mole. He’s resourceful, but it’s often for nothing as we switch to a fourth wall-breaking explanation about why his bright idea to escape the psychopathic Andrey won’t work. Rooting for him is an emotional rollercoaster.
There’s something incredibly charming about the film’s blatantness, and not just writer-director Kirill Sokolov’s heroic determination to show repeated torture and serious injury. In one of the flashbacks a criminal is wearing a jacket saying Russia and sits behind bars, before being released because of a bribe.
The bloody, bubbly dynamism and humour stop it ever feeling contrived, even though the film’s theatrical set-up is overt, with every element choreographed to perfection. The hemmed-in setting and tiny cast of trope-characters (“his resentful actress daughter, an angry thug, and a cheated cop” IMDB’s synopsis calls them) may be budget-related, but those characters work as perfectly for this modern, violent film about a family showdown as for any big budget 1940s-set detective drama that ends up with all its stereotype suspects in the drawing room.
That set up feeds into the film’s ideas about family, and about Russian corruption, and a past where any accusation without proof could lead to terrible consequences. The apartment’s faded grandeur sits cheek by jowl with institutional sameness; the corridor outside is plain and scruffy, the tower block lift covered in graffiti.
The apartment is mostly green and red, with more and more red as the movie unfolds. Wife Tasha (Elena Shevchenko), a quiet worried presence, is also in green, so it feels like she’s stepping back and blending into the walls and furniture. She’s the conscience, trying to stop Andrey going too far, or maybe at times the referee. Andrey starts off in a cream shirt but soon it’s so blood-soaked it looks like solid colour.
Between the gruesome fighting there are periods of calm, either as they take a breather or try to escape.
At one point I did wonder if the apartment would turn out to be purgatory and everyone in it already dead, which would explain their Chumbawumba-like ability to get knocked down and then get up again. But really, they are all very much alive (for now!) It’s just almost impossible to kill anyone. They’re definitely horribly injured, but they keep resurrecting, as if to actually succumb to their wounds would be unpatriotic.
The music is often operatic, or a waltz; at other times it sounds like a Western. It all adds up to a gleeful and jaunty ride, where you don’t really want anyone to die even if they’re awful.
The performances are great fun. Kuznetsov and Khaev are a perfect odd couple pairing: one naive and straightforward, the other worldly and opportunistic, linked together by their tenacity and resolve.
Why Don’t You Just Die is out now in the UK and US
Watch the trailer now: