Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Sonatine is a 1993 Japanese crime thriller written and directed by and starring Takeshi Kitano. I believe it's the first movie that garnered him international attention as a director.

Kitano stars as Murakawa, a Yakuza guy who has kind of had it with being a Yakuza, and is looking for a way out. When he and his men are sent to Okinawa for what is essentially some busywork, Murakawa smells a rat and suspects that his bosses are planning to get rid of him. When it turns out he was right, Murakawa and some of his men go into hiding at a beach house in the hopes that this will all blow over.

This second act of Sonatine is what really sets the movie apart from other crime films. While at the beach house, the characters essentially goof off Yakuza style for a good long while. They play games and tease each other, Murakawa plays pranks such as digging sand traps for them to fall into. But it isn't all about laughs. There's a melancholy feel to all the scenes, and the fun and games have a violent underpinning to them, as this is the only life these Yakuza guys really know. There's a scene where Murakawa spies two of his underlings shooting a can off of each others' heads. He approaches them and it quickly becomes a tense game of Russian Roulette. It plays as a reminder of just what these guys are capable of, and also gives us a glimpse of the inner turmoil Murakawa is experiencing.

The strange turbulent peace of act two eventual comes to an abrupt end, and the third act features Murakawa turning the tables on the people who are out to get him, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you things get pretty bloody.

Sonatine is a very well made movie, and pretty enjoyable, although it can be kind of depressing at times too. Don't hold out for a happy ending, folks. You pretty much know from the get go that there's no way that's going to happen. The whole middle section is where Sonatine shined for me, and I believe it is what ultimately makes the movie richer and more thoughtful than other crime movies of this type.

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