A small-time crook agrees to star in a viral video, which can restore the public image of a prominent businessman.
The self-proclaimed antihero of writer/director Dimitris Tsilifonis’ Greek thriller Do It Yourself, Arkis Vidalis (Konstadinos Aspiotis), is held hostage at a porn studio somewhere outside Athens. We first see the “small-time crook” tied up and bloody, giving a testimonial: “If you’re seeing this, I’m probably dead.” He then breaks the fourth wall, telling us not to expect another Greek knock-off of Hollywood thrillers. He’s in control of the narrative, cutting away at bits he deems boring and frequently addressing the audience. Too bad he doesn’t take more time to explain the (admittedly unconventional) film’s borderline-incoherent, head-inducing plot.
“The self-proclaimed antihero…is held hostage at a porn studio…”
If only Tsilifonis scaled back and focused on fleshing out his debut feature’s beating heart – Arkis’s consequent escape from a building full of thugs – he would have had a nifty little thriller on his hands. Instead, he adds twist upon twist, with political machinations and triple-reversals that matter zilch due to lack of character development or motivation. Simplicity would’ve been key here: Arkis has to find a way out of the labyrinthine porn studio, but not before retrieving an incriminating video from its editing room. Before he knows it, he’s shooting folks, leaping from balconies and MacGuyvering himself out of situations (one particularly ingenious one involves a chair, a long chain, several tripod leg weights, and a cell phone).
But then the filmmaker proceeds to stuff the plot with complication upon complication. Arkis apparently had agreed to make the aforementioned video to restore a public persona’s reputation but was then double-crossed. The supposedly helpful cutting back-and-forward in narrative makes the proceedings even more confusing. Who framed whom? For what reason? Why is it that Arkis is needed alive because he did not kill… Ah, forget it. Keeping track of all this will make you pop Excedrins like they’re M&M’s.
“He attaches his camera to screwdrivers, slides it up and down through building floors, and stages tense sequences…”
On the upside, apart from the frequent references to Martin Scorsese (as well as “Sicario” and…“Saw”), Tsilifonis’ quirky stylistic techniques and sense of humor mostly land. He attaches his camera to screwdrivers, slides it up and down through building floors, and stages tense sequences with the quiet assurance of a more seasoned filmmaker. Though frequently tittering on the line between inventive and ridiculous, the gags will make you smile: there’s an unfortunate miscommunication with Siri; a YouTube tutorial on how to fix a broken leg; and a mobster who wants to make sure his face won’t be on camera before doggedly agreeing to star in an adult film.
Greek cinema has recently been put on the map by filmmaker extraordinaire, Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Favourite). Tsilifonis reiterates with his flawed-but-fun debut that there is a deep well of cinematic talent brewing in the Mediterranean. As long as you don’t overthink it, Do It Yourself’s self-referential nature, creativity and a good sense of timing make it worth a rainy-day rental.
Do It Yourself (2018) Written and Directed by Dimitris Tsilifonis. Starring Konstadinos Aspiotis, Makis Papadimitriou, Mirto Alikaki, Christos Loulis, Argyris Xafis.
6 out of 10