Sion Sono’s “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” – 2013 BIFF Review

An amateur filmmaker named Hirata, one of the many protagonists in Sion Sono’s latest work, makes a wish to his personal Movie God: to make a cinematic masterpiece, even if it means paying the price with death.  Sono’s own “Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” (地獄でなぜ悪い) comes close as a wickedly entertaining feature that is equal parts cynical comedy, rollicking satire and, of course, a no-holds-barred blood splat fest.

On one side, Hirata leads a high school film club quartet called the Fuck Bombers, whose name implies anything but their actual confidence to make a real film.  On the other, the Muto and Ikegami yakuza clans are battling to finish each other off, with Muto’s wife unexpectedly entering the fray with a brutal display of self-defense that lands her in prison for 10 years.  At the center of this maelstrom is Muto’s young daughter Mitsuko, a fledgling actress best known for a toothpaste commercial and jingle that was yanked off the air following her mother’s arrest.  Muto’s fear of the two women in his own family raises the stakes when, just days away from her prison release, his wife hopes to finally see Mitsuko on the big screen as a famed actress.

However, there is just one problem.  There is no film.  Mitsuko is still living her past glory days as a toothpaste pitchgirl, and Muto’s aim to please his wife supersedes whacking off the heads of the Ikegami clan.  Meanwhile Ikegami, who after a decade now seems to think his yakuza should act and dress like samurai, has developed a bit of an obsession with Mitsuko.  What ensues is a collision of happenstance ill-fated encounters that results in a murderous film within a film, a seemingly endless cycle of literal guts for glory – and Sono manages to polish it with laugh-out-loud hilarity, including a couple of John Woo ’90s gunfight parodies to boot.

A familiar cast, which includes “Versus” star Tak Sakaguchi as one of the Fuck Bombers, brilliantly executes the script.  If this spinning vortex of rinse-and-repeat violence for fame is Sono’s version of purgatory, he at least assures that everyone has a great time paying the price.

“Why Don’t You Play in Hell?” screens at the Busan International Film Festival on Oct. 7 and Oct. 10 (twice). Ticket information is available at