There is no shortage of films about the movie industry, from Bill Wilder’s film noir Sunset Blvd to Robert Altman’s satirical The Player to silly films like Hal Needham’s Hooper, we as viewers are fascinated by that celluloid world. Now, in Shion Sono’s Why Don’t You Play in Hell? we get the bloodiest look at the passion and the desire to make a movie.
In today’s culture anybody can be a director, you don’t even need talent, you just need a camera and the drive make your dream happen. In Why Don’t You Play in Hell? we are introduced to a group of kids that call themselves The Fuck Bombs and what they lack in talent they more than make up for in passion. The ringleader of this cinema club is Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) who leads his merry band into any dangerous situation if looks like it could result in a cool shot. What’s great is that his friends are as equally nuts as Hirata is. They are just so damn happy to be filming anything that consequences don’t even come into play.
This movie isn’t just about cinema lovers, it also has a nasty turf war between two Yakuza clans; Ikegami (Shin’ichi Tsutsumi) leads a group of hitmen to kill rival Yakuza boss Muto (Jun Kunimura) at his home, but instead encounter his wife Junko (Megumi Kagurazaka) who could possibly be more dangerous than an entire ninja army. While bleeding on the kitchen floor Ikegami encounters young Mitsuko (Nanoka Hara), daughter of Muto and Junko who walks in on the bloody aftermath. Ikegami is entranced by her as she is the star of a toothpaste commercial with an infectious jingle that has captured the nation’s heart. Unfortunately, Mitsuko’s mother goes to jail because apparently you can’t claim self-defense if you chase your attackers down the street with a butcher’s knife.
The movie then jumps ahead ten years and we find that passion does not necessarily lead to success, as The Fuck Bombs have only managed to make a three minute trailer for their martial arts masterpiece. And on the Yakuza side we learn that Junko is getting out of jail in ten days, this is a problem for Muto because for the last ten years he has been lying to his wife about Mitsuko’s (Fumi Nikaidô) successful movie career. When she gets out she expects to see a movie starring her daughter. In reality Mitsuko has only landed bit parts over the years and is now totally disillusioned with the whole business and no longer wants any part of it. Muto is so in love (or possibly in fear) of disappointing his wife that he even kidnaps his own daughter to force he to star in a film that he will somehow get produced in ten days.
To complicate matters further, Ikegami, who now leads his Yakuza clan, has decided to break their ten year old truce and orders an attack on Muto’s people. Much carnage ensues which allows Mitsuko to escape and run into the arms of Koji (Gen Hoshino) who she offers 100,000 Yen if he will be her boyfriend for the day. Muto’s men eventually catch up with them and Mitsuko is only able to save Koji from being murdered by her father by telling him that Koji is a director. Thus the last piece moves into place.
Koji of course has no clue how to go about making a movie and is only “rescued” when the “Movie Gods” lead him to The Fuck Bombs. With the help of Hirata and his gang of intrepid movie lovers they will film an actual raid on Ikegami’s people that will somehow star Mitsuko. What makes it even more insane is that Ikegami actually agrees to participate in the filming of the attack because he has been obsessed with Mitsuko all these years.
This movie is crazy and most of the characters in this movie are clearly certifiable, and just trying to follow these disparaging groups of oddballs could drive you insane, but more likely you will just be laughing your ass off as often as I did. This is a blood soaked adrenaline fuelled dark comedy of epic proportions, and when the shit hits the fan I dare any viewer to not walk away with a huge goofy smile on their face.
Director Shion Sono has created a surreal and wild world full of glorious carnage that he then populated with some of the goofiest yet likable characters that you are ever going to come across. Why Don’t You Play in Hell? is for fans of Hong Kong action flicks and is basically a love letter to cinephiles everywhere. Well, a blood soaked love letter that it is.