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

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Patriots Day Movie Review

Patriots Day Movie Review

The third time's a charm for Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg, who previously teamed...

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

A Cure for Wellness Movie Review

It's no surprise that this creep-out horror thriller is packed with whizzy visual invention, since...

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

It's Only the End of the World Movie Review

At just 27 years old, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has an almost overwhelming set of...

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

Advertisement
The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

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.