Sion Sono’s WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? Press Notes
This article contains adult language.
Following an extraordinary, internationally praised run of films including LOVE EXPOSURE (愛のむきだし, Ai no Mukidashi, 2009), COLD FISH (冷たい熱帯魚, Tsumetai Nettaigyo, 2011), GUILTY OF ROMANCE (冷たい熱帯魚, Koi no Tsumi, 2011), HIMIZU (ヒミズ, 2012) and THE LAND OF HOPE (希望の国, Kibou no Kuni, 2012), Sono wanted to take a break from overly serious subject matter. He recently made his debut as a standup comedian in Tokyo and dusted off a wild action-comedy screenplay he wrote in the early years of his career entitled WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? (地獄でなぜ悪い, Jigoku de Naze Warui).
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? is a passionate love letter to film and filmmaking, brilliantly fusing pipe dreams of cinematic glory, violent yakuza wars and young romance, all soaked in blood, sweat and tears. “Make a damn good movie, even if it’s only one!” is the film’s rallying cry.
Sono reunites with HIMIZU star Fumi Nikaido, casting her in the role of Muto yakuza clan daughter Mitsuko. Nikaido transforms into a tough-talking, would-be film star who conveys a mix of sexiness, tenderness and deadliness that leaves a deep impression. Veteran character actor Jun Kunimura, known for his action role in John Woo classic HARD BOILED (辣手神探, Lat sau san taam, 1992) and the OUTRAGE films, finally takes center stage, as Mitsuko’s father. Kunimura has extra presence in Venice with his voice work in THE WIND RISES (風立ちぬ, Kaze Tachinu, 2013) and a supporting part in the Japanese remake of UNFORGIVEN (許されざる者,Yurusarezarumono, 2013). They are joined by Hiroki Hasegawa as unstoppable film nerd Hirata, Shinichi Tsutsumi as rival yakuza boss Ikegami, and Gen Hoshino playing an innocent boy caught up in the chaos. For fans of Japanese action, martial arts star Tak Sakaguchi comes flying out of retirement to play a key role in an iconic costume.
On August 29th, the film screened in Venice in a special 119-minute director’s cut.
Drafthouse Films has already bought North American rights to WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL?, with hotly anticipated North American and US premieres at Toronto’s Midnight Madness and Austin’s Fantastic Fest in September. Elle Driver is handling world sales.
“It was 17 years ago when I wrote the script for this movie. Although the story hasn’t changed much since then, the world of cinema has made a switch to digital. I decided to weave a requiem to 35mm into the fabric of this film.”
When the Kitagawa yakuza clan ambushes the home of rival clan boss Muto (Kunimura), Muto’s wife singlehandedly massacres their gang. She’s imprisoned ten years for her brutality, forfeiting the acting career of their 10-year-old daughter Mitsuko, whose ultra-popular toothpaste commercial is yanked from the air. Meanwhile, a troupe of young film students led by directing nerd Hirata (Hiroki Hasegawa) christen themselves the “Fuck Bombers,” with dreams of future cinematic glory. They happen across massacre survivor Ikegami (Shinichi Tsutsumi) and excitedly film him as he staggers away covered in blood.
In the ensuing years, Ikegami gradually rebuilds his gang as Muto’s wife’s release from prison approaches. Muto has bought grown-up Mitsuko (Fumi Nikaido) a starring role in a movie to resurrect her career and make his wife proud. However, Mitsuko absconds with her boyfriend midshoot, throwing the production into chaos. With only nine days remaining before Mrs. Muto’s release, Muto and his crew decide to make the movie themselves. Mitsuko returns with a naive young man she met by chance while on the run (Gen Hoshino), who pretends to be a director for her sake. Through a miraculous twist of fate, the flailing Fuck Bombers finally get their shot at the big time as Ikegami and Muto face off in a yakuza battle to end all battles.
World Premiere: August 29, 2013 (Venice Film Festival)
North American Premiere: September 13, 2013 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Japanese Theatrical Release: September 28, 2013
Running Time: 126 Minutes
Director’s Cut Running Time: 119 Minutes
Taizo Muto: Jun Kunimura
Jun Ikegami: Shinichi Tsutsumi
Don Hirata: Hiroki Hasegawa
Kouji Hashimoto: Gen Hoshino
Mitsuko Muto: Fumi Nikaido
Shizue Muto: Tomochika
Mayu Otsuki: Kotou Lorena
Directed, Written and Music by: Sion Sono
Executive Producer: Atsushi Moriyama
Producers: Takeshi Suzuki, Tsuyoshi Suzuki, Takuyuki Matsuno
Cinematography: Hideo Yamamoto
Art Director: Hisao Inagaki
Lighting: Akira Ono
Sound: Sion Sono, Keiji Inai, Hidekazu Sakamoto
Sound Editing: Hajime Komiya
Sound Effects: Masatoshi Saito
Set Design: Yoshio Yamada
Production Designer: Hisao Inagaki
Editor: Junichi Ito
Visual Effects: Satoshi Akabane
Stunt Coordinator: Isao Karasawa
Scripter: Yuko Sadaki
Music: Keiji Inai
Theme Song: Hoshino Gen
Production Co.: Bitters End, Inc.
WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? Film Partners: Bitters End, Gansis, King Record Co., T-Joy
Japanese Distribution: King Record Co., Ltd., T-Joy Co., Ltd.
World Sales: T-Joy Co., Ltd, Elle Driver
International PR: Loaded Films Ltd.
© 2013 WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL? Film Partners