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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The hyperproductive Miike (he's helmed an astounding 64 movies in 13 years) loves to push the boundaries of cinematic violence, and in Izo, he also pushes the boundary of time itself, taking his story across three centuries in hopscotch fashion. It all starts with a crucifixion in 1865. Izo (Kazuya Nakayama) is an assassin who is captured, tortured, and killed by soldiers of the Shogun. The problem is that he doesn't really die. Instead, he becomes an avenging ghost of death, traveling through time to spread murder and mayhem wherever he happens to land. He has some serious rage issues.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.