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  Why Don't You Play in Hell? Film Fanatics
Year: 2013
Director: Sion Sono
Stars: Jun Kunimura, Fumi Nikaidô, Shin'ichi Tsutsumi, Hiroki Hasegawa, Gen Hoshino, Tomochika, Itsuji Itao, Hiroyuki Onoue, Tak Sakaguchi, Tetsu Watanabe, Tasuku Nagaoka, Akihiro Kitamura, Megumi Kagurazaka, Motoki Fukami, Tarô Suwa, Donpei Tsuchihira
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Action, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ten years ago, the gang of amateur teenage filmmakers who called themselves the Fuck Bombers had big dreams about making a success of themselves in showbusiness, and their leader, the director Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa), would assemble his buddies to shoot on the streets of Tokyo, crafting idiosyncratic 16mm works that pleased nobody but themselves. It was as much the experience of filming that excited them as it was the end result, so when they were making yet another mini-epic and he noticed nearby a teenage gang fight was going on, Hirata immediately lost interest in his project and encouraged his cameramen (and camerawoman) to start capturing the melee instead. But now, where have those dreams gotten them?

Well, it has made them a friend of the teenage gang leader, grown up and nearing thirty, but Sasaki (Tak Sakaguchi) has become dissatisfied with what currently seem like Hirata's empty promises that he would be the Japanese Bruce Lee by now: he has the Game of Death jumpsuit and everything, yet that all important action movie has never been made, and the Fuck Bombers' old haunt of a celluloid-projecting cinema has long since closed. But if there was a message in the actual director Sion Sono's tribute to his filmmaking past, it was never to give up on the movies, as while your dreams may not come true, watching and indeed contributing to the cinema industry, even as a consumer, was the next best thing. Basically, according to Sono, they would never let you down.

Which was an optimistic outlook, and some would say blinkered if you used films as a replacement for reality, which was more or less how Hirata and company behave, to the extent that the story ended with them finally indulging in a project that saw their lives and their fiction blurred in a lengthy sequence so over the top that it made the superbly titled Why Don't You Play in Hell? a minor legend in its own lunchtime, especially if you were partial to intense action movies. The trouble with that was, Sion didn't know when enough was enough, which wasn't so much a problem when you were watching the blood-drenched denouement because he was pushing himself so far it was undeniably riveting, but it was an issue in the hour and a half running up to that where as an artist he was allowing himself to ramble, a little too pleased with his fertile mind.

This wasn't only the tale of Hirata and his gang of camera-wielding obsessives, as there was a gangster yarn spun concurrently which would eventually come together with the rest of it. These parts saw a former child star of a toothpaste advert complete with catchy tune for her to sing now grown herself and determined to become a film star as well, the realisation of lofty ambitions a strong theme here. The drawback she finds there is that her parents are involved with the Yakuza, and after her mother slaughtered a bunch of gangsters in her kitchen Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaidô) saw her blossoming career nipped in the bud. She is a curious preoccupation for many of the characters, not least her father Muto (Jun Kunimura) who wants to see his pride and joy be a star as much as she does, only they disagree over the right project.

Therefore we are introduced to the twenty-year-old Mitsuko as she is tied to a chair to stop her getting away, whereupon rival gangsters, led by Ikegami (Shin'ichi Tsutsumi), who is set on returning to traditional Japanese values so dresses his henchmen in kimonos rather than Western-style suits, burst in and commence firing. This antagonism not only provides impetus for the drama - and the comedy, too as this was often deliberately funny - but also acted as an homage for a very particular Japanese form of thriller where the Yakuza would take centre stage, so homages were very much on Sion's mind. When all these misfits join up for the ending, a gruesomely extended set of scenes of violence that the film sets about with a deranged glee this nation led the somewhat dubious way in, you could criticise the director for an over-reliance on CGI blood, but there was enough of the genuine fake stuff (if you see what I mean) for it really not to matter. This was as much a "movie movie" as Sion could make, drawing on his own memories as a filmmaker and fan, making it oddly, twistedly touching. Music by Sion too.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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