WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! (PAPA, SDOKHNI!)

Producer: Sofika Kiknavelidze   Director: Kirill Sokolov   Screenplay: Kirill Sokolov   Cast: Vitaliy Khaev, Aleksandr Kuznetsov, Evgeniya Kregzhde, Mikhail Gorevoy, Elena Shevchenko, Igor Grabuzov and Aleksandr Domogarov   Distributor: Arrow Films

Grade:  B-

You’ll need a strong stomach to swallow the gore-soaked violence of Kirill Sokolov’s exercise in mayhem, but the picture’s cartoonish quality makes it go down more easily.  It won’t be to everyone’s taste, of course, but fans of black, bleak bloodletting will find it curiously exhilarating, if totally tasteless and amoral.

The movie begins with Matvei (Aleksandr Kuznetsov), a nervous young fellow wearing a hoodie emblazoned with a Batman logo, arriving at an apartment with a hammer in his hand.  He intends to use it to kill Andrei (Vitaliy Khaev), the father of his girlfriend Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), an aspiring actress who—we later learn—has told him that her dad raped her as a child.  (The original Russian title of the movie translates as “Die, Daddy!”)

Matvei’s foiled, however, when a neighbor arrives in the hallway with a snarling dog, and Olya’s mother Tasha (Elena Shevchenko)—whom he’d expected to be away at the family’s country house—turns out to be there.

Even worse, Andrei, a burly, seasoned cop, suspects that Matvei isn’t Olya’s boyfriend, as he claims to be, but a criminal sent to assassinate him, and pulls a gun.  Matvei would be dead meat—and the movie over—if the young man weren’t equipped with a heart that resumes beating (as we’re shown in a flashback to his school days) after being halted for ten or fifteen minutes.  His resuscitation restarts the cat-and-mouse game between him and Andrei that runs through the picture. 

A few other characters enter the story, which is almost entirely confined to the apartment and the hallway outside it.  One is Olya, whom Andrei summons to find out what’s going on.  Another is Andrei’s partner Yevgenich (Mikhail Gorevoy), a sad-sack fellow with whom he’d conspired to fleece a wealthy couple in order to spring their son (Aleksandr Domogarov), a drug-addled brute who had literally decapitated a woman, from jail.  (Another flashback shows us the grotesque deed and its aftermath.) 

Andrei wants Yevgenich’s help in disposing of Matvei, but it turns out that the revelation of duplicity in his past treatment of the poor schlub throws a monkey wrench into that not-so-pious hope.  And a couple of cops arrive to answer a noise complaint from a neighbor, but sheepishly retire after learning that the place belongs to Andrei, whom they greatly admire, and getting a look at Olya.

Constructed like a Rube Goldberg contrivance, “Why Don’t You Just Die!” is a gross-out farce in which Matvei isn’t the only character who repeatedly comes back to life so that the riot of nastiness can continue.  It’s a live-action Looney Tunes suffused with splatters and wounds you never saw Yosemite Sam or Wile E. Coyote suffer in their encounters with Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner.  Whether you find that hilariously over-the-top or revolting will be a matter of taste.

Either way, the picture is expertly engineered, with craft contributions—production design (Viktor Zudin) and camerawork (Dmitriy Ulyukaev)—that help make it a madcap adult comic brought to life, and editing, by Sokolov himself, that fits all the pieces together efficiently.  The music by Vadim Gorevoy and Sergey Solovyov is, in its own way, as garishly appropriate as the visuals.

In this sort of fare, the cast does more posing than acting, but everyone here fills their respective bills, from Khaev’s bearlike hulk, Kuznetsov’s shallow everyman and Kregzhde’s sultry seductress to Gorevoy’s pathetic weasel and Shevchenko’s sadly submissive wife and mother.

Sokolov’s movie is nothing more than a smirking, sardonically grisly game, but on that admittedly low level, it works.