Sonatine

"Very Good"

Sonatine Review


In close to a dozen movies as actor, director, and/or writer, Takeshi Kitano (who acts under the name Beat Takeshi) has reinvented the time-honored yakuza genre. Gangsters may act like gangsters the world over, but Kitano's Zen take on crime, punishment, and violence gives his films a uniquely Japanese vibe and make them well worth watching.

Sonatine gives us Kitano as Murakama, a burned-out and nearly silent mid-level thug who admits to his loyal sidekick Takahashi (Kenichi Yajima) that he's just plain tired. "Maybe you're too rich for this business," retorts Takahashi, and it may be true. As a trusted member of the local gang, Murakama gets big assignments, but lately he's been suspecting that the higher-ups are trying to get rid of him. When the big boss commands him to take a team to the island of Okinawa to settle a regional gang war, Murakama is suspicious. Could it be that the boss wants to trigger a bloodbath so he can move in and take over the turf? Something smells like sushi.

On the island, Murakama's gang teams up with some local hoods and sets up camp at an isolated fishing cabin complete with a gorgeous beach and stunning ocean view. With little to do until the gang wars commence, the merry band kills time by wrestling on the beach and shooting at each other with roman candles. Murakama even manages to find a girlfriend (Aya Kokumai), whom he rescues from a roadside rape attempt. Strange how he can seem so sweet even after we've recently seen him drown a man in Tokyo Bay by tying him to a crane and repeatedly dunking him until he struggles no more.

Violence is always bubbling just beneath the surface, and occasionally it erupts like a fast and vicious volcano. In one of the movie's best moments, two young gang members are trying to shoot beer cans off each other's heads. Murakama wanders over and suggests a quick game of Russian roulette, with rounds of rock/paper/scissors to determine who gets to shoot first. Murakama gives the impression that he wouldn't mind dying at all. At least then he'd get some rest.

As rival gangs start turning up the heat, Murakama and company engage in selective killing and bombing to get their job done. While some of the locals seem thrilled by all the action, Murakama goes about his work joylessly, and in a clever twist, most of the final bloody climax happens off-screen, with only distant gun flashes and pops to clue us in as to what may be going on. This kind of violence has become so boring and mundane to Murakama that we needn't bother to see it. He may live. He may die. Does he care?

With its long silences and slow pans across tropical vistas, Sonatine is unlike any gangster picture you've seen, and perhaps this depiction of boredom punctuated by horror is a more realistic view of thug life than movies normally provide. Give the credit to Kitano, and check out his other work. Since Sonatine's 1993 release, he has only improved and refined his unique cinematic style.

Appears on DVD with Kitano's Zatoichi.

Pepsi?



Sonatine

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Friday 10th April 1998

Distributed by: Miramax

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Aniki Murakawa, as Miyuki, Tetsu Watanabe as Uechi, Masanobu Katsumura as Ryoji, as Ken, Tonbo Zushi as Kitajima, as Takahashi, Eiji Minakata as The Hit Man, Rome Kanda as Gangster, Houka Kinoshita as A member of kitajima-gumi, Yuuki Natsusaka as Murakawa-gumi kumiin, Kanta Yamazaki as Waiter, as Katagiri

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.