★★★☆☆

Matvey (Alexksandr Kuznetsov) waits at the front door of his girlfriend’s father’s apartment, priming himself for the bloody task ahead of him. Priming himself, he utters the mantra, “evil won’t touch me”. It may not touch him, but over the next 100 minutes of this hyper-violent comic thriller, it certainly manages to inflict a whole lot of damage.

Since 2012, 30-year-old Russian director Kirill Sokolov has made his name on the shorts festival circuit; now his debut feature announces him as a brash, energetic talent. Sokolov completed Why Don’t You Just Die! back in 2018, but its tale of extreme domestic disharmony, taking place largely within the confines of a small apartment, couldn’t be more appropriate for these times.

While Matvey’s attempt to kill Andrey (Vitaliy Khaev) plays out in real-time, a series of flashbacks gradually reveal the motivations and grievances of our players. Matvey has been sent by his girlfriend, Olya (Evgeniya Kregzhde), to kill her father after she tells him that he raped her as a child. Meanwhile, we learn that police detective Andrey recently screwed over his partner after they both conspired to extract a bribe from rich a murderer in their custody. Gradually it becomes clear that no one – expect perhaps Olya’s mother (Elena Shevchenko) and Matvey himself, neither of whom we learn much about – is without sin.

As the film nears its bloody conclusion, hints of magical realism conjure a purgatorial space to the apartment, while the violence exacted upon Matvey increasingly resembles a test of righteousness. The violence is brutal, mean, and often extremely funny; an early shot of a TV screen smashing Matvey square in the face is weirdly balletic, while a scene in the bathroom involving a drill and a knee cap is truly wince-inducing.

Why Don’t You Just Die’s intense, sickly colour scheme of greens, red and yellows are reminiscent of Euro-thrillers from the early and mid-2000s and its highly-stylised aesthetic, onion-layer structure and black comedy are a potent mixture of cinematic influences. There’s an appealing callowness to Sokolov’s drawing on cinematic reference points, from the score lifted straight from Ennio Morricone and a visual nod to Trainspotting that bears repeating.

The whip-snap editing and exaggerated sound effects bring to mind both the films of Edgar Wright and The Raid films, while the brutality is more akin to the cinema of Park Chan-Wook or Miike Takashi. Aside from the film’s more immediate pleasures, what is perhaps most intriguing about Why Don’t You Just Die! is Sokolov’s almost visible attempt to find his own voice: among this melange of film-school influences, it’s undoubtedly there, though perhaps it hasn’t quite formed yet.

Christopher Machell | @MachellFilm