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.

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