Why Don’t You Play in Hell turns into a bloodbath. Before that, though, it’s a comic romp through amateur filmmaking, young love, and yakuza feuds. Okay. Maybe that last one gives away the bloodbath.
Hirata is a slightly (mostly) deranged amateur director, pursuing his high school dream of creating One Great Film; his filmmaking crew, the Fuck Bombers, includes his equally enthusiastic high school friends (camera operators, natch), plus one newcomer: Sasaki, a high-scool tough guy whom Hirata declares the “new Bruce Lee.” Yellow tracksuit ensues.
Ten years later, Hirata and the Fuck Bombers are still where they started—admittedly with a couple more groupies (?)—hanging out in the same movie theatre (now closed) and admiring the same promo reel they wrapped years ago. Sasaki, disillusioned (but still wearing the tracksuit), resolves to quit. But over the ten years that the Fuck Bombers are puttering around, a feud grows between two yakuza factions, centered around boss Muto’s wannabe-actress daughter, Mitsuko; and through a series of increasingly improbable coincidences, the aging Fuck Bombers find themselves in the perfect position to film the blowout.
The movie, for what it’s worth, takes it pretty slow to start, without much actually happening for the first half; mostly we see the Fuck Bombers getting super amped up, and the yakuza feud taking root. A lot of it feels like padding, really; maybe it was a result of me seeing this at midnight and being sleepy/impatient, but for awhile I was wondering how long it’d take before people start getting their limbs chopped off. There’s a few hints of the insanity to come, of course—an early scene where Muto’s wife (expressionless, spattered with blood, wielding a kitchen knife [a slice of carrot still stuck to the blade]) chases a would-be assassin through the streets of the city comes to mind. But then there’s also a lot of time setting up a kind-of romance between Muto’s aggressively sadistic daughter and hapless bystander Koji, which, I mean, I get it, but invoking the trope is enough; no need to describe it in detail, sheesh.
Dragging moments aside, the yakuza side of the plot is the stronger of the two, buoyed by the combined talents of Jun Kunimura and Shinichi Tsutsumi who play the rival yakuza bosses. Tsutsumi, in particular, has a particular knack for playing a star-struck doofus, never failing to grin/pose in front of Hirata’s camera.
Anyway, this all pretty much goes out the window when limbs start flying. That part’s pretty good.
So a movie about a movie crew making a movie. Yt. can’t help but notice all the obvious homages to Kill Bill, complete with climactic, blood-squirty sword fights and the first thirty seconds of Santa Esmeralda’s “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”—you know, the bit with the flamenco guitar. And it’s nuts, obviously, because of all the Japanese action-flick influences that (the first) Kill Bill draws on. So a Japanese movie heavily influenced by an American movie heavily influenced by Japanese movies. The meta: YUP, OFF THE CHARTS.
WHICH IS ITSELF A COVER. ↩