TIFF 2013 Review: Sono's WHY DON'T YOU PLAY IN HELL Brings The Madness To Midnight

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
Mark my words: If another film brings even half the level of lunacy to the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness lineup as does Sono Sion's Why Don't You Play In Hell, I will eat my shirt. Literally. I will cut up the shirt I am wearing right now - which I quite like, incidentally - I will cook it into a stew, and I will eat it. I feel more than confident in the safety of said shirt while making this offer, however, because after a pair of 'serious' pictures, and others that while harrowing were relatively speaking rather conventional, Sono's Why Don't You Play In Hell is absolutely mad. It is every insane urge and image that Sono has had banging around in his head unused over his career distilled down and splashed on screen in all its absurd - and frequently very bloody - glory. Fans, rejoice: This is the Sono film you've been waiting for since Love Exposure.

The multi stranded story resists synopsis - and does so quite convincingly - but the major plot threads go like this: There is a pair of rival yakuza gangs engaged in a feud spanning decades, a feud driven in part by one of the gang leaders' obsession with the others' daughter. The daughter? Well, dad's trying to set her up as an actress to make good on a promise made to his wife, but she's not being particularly helpful. And then there's the gang of renegade film enthusiasts who call themselves the Fuck Bombers ...

Trying to make logical sense of Why Don't You Play In Hell is like trying to untie a Gordian Knot. It's simply not going to happen. There's just too much crazy. But it at least mostly makes sense while it's playing out and the entire cast - including familiar faces such as Sakaguchi Tak, Kunimura Jun and Tsutsumi Shinichi - are having so much fun throughout that the bits that don't quite click in are easy to forgive.

A genre masher that incorporates yakuza film, martial arts, liberal doses of blood, slapstick comedy and some earnest opining on the power and value of cinema delivered in a very goofy package, Sono packs enough ideas in here to fill a handful of films and yet somehow keeps it all working together in a surprisingly unified whole. It's brash, funny, sexy, unrepentently stylish, endlessly surprising and - most important of all - simply great fun. 

Around the Internet:
  • Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg

    I wonder if you will have to eat your shirt after seeing WITCHING & BITCHING

  • If something's gonna get me that'd be the one.

  • Shelagh M. Rowan-Legg

    I have now seen this. As much as Álex's work is crazy, I think your shirt is safe.

  • James Shapiro

    I wanna be there when you feast on said clothing...cause you are DEAD WRONG (and its not W&B)

  • I never understood all that love for Love Exposure. While it was never boring, to me it felt like a loud and long and often annoying and cheesy soap opera for teenagers.

  • M North

    Yeah there's nothing masterful about it really, but it's outlandish in a way that few movies are which is presumably where the appeal comes from. A cult movie in every sense of the phrase.

  • Sebo McPowers

    I don't agree with the soap opera part. But I share the rest of your view on the movie. The movie was ok, but after what I read, I expected a mad rollercaoster ride, not a rather slow moving movie with some outstanding moments...

  • Art Vandelay

    WOO!! This is what I'm talking about. As great as Sion Sono's previous films are, I'm glad Sono is back into gonzo mode like Love Exposure.

  • RoboticPlague

    I was really hoping to get that free online screening pass of this you guys had, sadly I was not chosen.

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