Shion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play In Hell? is a wacky, blood-drenched homage to the movies, and to the people who love the movies. It’s as over-the-top and goofy as anything you’re likely to see on the big screen this year.
The movie starts with a Japanese toothpaste commercial, in which cute 8-year-old Mitsuko sings an infectious jingle that everyone in Japan knows by heart. Mitsuko is the heir to the Muto crime family, and when gangsters from the warring Ikegami clan come to Muto’s house to kill the family patriarch, they instead find his wife, who dispatches all four men with a carving knife. Because she chases down and brutally executes the last of the men out in the street, she is sent to prison for ten years.
Meanwhile, schoolboy Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) is the loquacious leader of the Fuck Bombs, a group of would-be filmmakers whose enthusiasm far outpaces their talent. They roam around town with 8mm cameras, staging scenes for a movie that they will never complete, and along the way recruit a street tough named Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) whom Hirata promises will be the next Bruce Lee. Their moral anchor is a kindly old theater projectionist, who tells the kids to follow their dreams no matter what.
A decade passes, and we find the Fuck Bombs haven’t gotten anywhere. They’re still running around with 8mm cameras, no closer to making a real movie than they were when they were in school. The theater they used to hang out at has closed, and the projectionist is long dead. Sasaki, realizing his dreams of being the next Bruce Lee will never materialize, bitterly quits the group.
We learn that Mitsuko’s mother is about to be released from prison. She had been assured that Mitsuko’s film career is going gangbusters, not knowing that the Muto family legal trouble has torpedoed the young woman’s acting career. Muto himself knows that if there isn’t a completed film for his wife to see, all the stories he told her over the years will expose him as a liar and break the poor woman’s heart. But suddenly he has an inspiration: the Muto clan will make a movie, starring a grown-up Mitsuko (Fumi Nukaido), set amidst the backdrop of a raid against the hated Ikegami gang.
The trouble is, none of the mobsters know anything about movies. If only they could find some aspiring filmmakers who could take charge!
You’ve probably guessed what comes next, but no verbal description can capture the hyperactive lunacy of Why Don’t You Play In Hell, a movie that’s wildly overdone even by the standards of Japanese cinema. It’s great fun. — Michael Popham
Why Don’t You Play In Hell? screens at the Trylon Monday and Tuesday, March 16 and 17, at 7:00 and 9:30. Advance tickets can be purchased here.