REVIEW: Get the Hell Out (TIFF 2020)
Especially in recent years, the behavior and practices of government officials seem to align more with a circus of shameless idiocy than a dignified system. However, the word idiocy is too forgiving — suggesting an act done without the capability of better understanding — and a government’s crimes against humanity are hardly out of ignorance, but mostly conscious acts of selfishness. Wang I-fan, in his directorial debut, Get the Hell Out, takes inspiration from his native government in Taiwan, which is infamous for allowing disputes to elevate into passionate brawls on the parliament floor. Collecting the nasty negativities of our world’s most powerful systems, I-fan thrusts them into ludicrous delirium and gaiety, hyperbolizing behind-the-scenes bloodthirsty greed into a maelstrom of zombified mayhem.
Hsiung Ying-Ying (Megan Lai) is a member of parliament who, passionate about stopping the production of a plant that is spreading a deadly virus in her homeland, is constantly pitted against the misogynistic, classist greed of the system that prioritizes profit over people. After losing her job, she enlists the help of Wang You-Wei (Bruce Ho), a security guard at the parliament, to run in the by-election and be her voice on the inside before the rabies virus that the plant precipitates turns everyone into “idiots.” But she’s too late, and the corrupt animal house of parliament devolves into a rabid site of annihilation at the hands of the undead.
Get the Hell Out incredibly crafts a stable display of comedy among the serious subject matter that outlines its events. Sometimes crude, other times slapstick, the humor punches through the darkness of tension and encapsulates the spirit of the movie even in its moments of recovery. The comedy, the violence, and the tenderness of the film work in perfect harmony. Each is equally pervasive throughout the plot, without interfering with the others as the essential elements of empathy and humanity are never lost among the cycles of slaughter that punctuate them.
None of this feeling or fun can be absorbed without great performances at their fore, and Get the Hell Out overflows with charisma. Lai and Ho lead the film brilliantly, wonderfully swinging a balanced act of emotional purity and hysterical gonzo brutality with palpable chemistry between them. Ying-Ying is the figure of the marginalized, and we care deeply about her as a victim and voice of the governmental oppression that treats lives as stock to be wagered. Lai embodies this role with bluntness and quiet concern that begs us to look beneath the gritty exterior. Given that we can compare Ying-Ying’s plight to our own contexts, regardless of what country we call home, this underlying thematic content is what keeps us invested in the film’s story as equally as the action.
However, what’s parallel in performative impression are all the side characters that simply function as gears to the film’s larger machine. In Get the Hell Out there’s no such thing as extras, and this attention to detail is thrilling. Every single participant takes equal part in bringing hilarity to the table. Background figures and side characters alike act with noticeable vigor and frivolity that’d convince you they believed the camera was on them alone. Their dedication to manifesting this manic atmosphere is not able to go unnoticed, and it’s what makes the film’s environment so engrossing.
Functioning under the stylistic inspiration of the media and all its forms, the no holds barred panache of the film is what ultimately gives color to all its elements. The visual style is boldly reminiscent of graphic novels, with each character being given an illustrated title card, and animations popping up to emphasize the impact of the violence. Get the Hell Out has a fun infusion of martial-arts and WWE Smackdown-esque savagery to its bloodshed, bringing compelling personality and energy to a genre overrun by a reliance on weapons. The coy integration of memes in public news broadcasts, The Truman Show-style transient ads, and a grand montage of Wang’s campaign are all hilarious in their execution, but contain the reminder of how deeply inset capitalism and media virality are in the modern processes of government.
With diverse, yet cohesive comedy, an utterly ludicrous itinerary of action, and a thoughtful heart that pumps the blood through its spurting veins, Get the Hell Out is a thunderous new chapter in the well-worn but ever-popular zombie subgenre. It’s an insatiable riot fest of chaos that’s insanity lies in horrifyingly real stakes and subjects, the ones who hold our quality of life in their hands. As the opening titles declare “a wrong movie makes you suffer for 90 minutes, a wrong government makes you suffer for 4 years.”