A mob boss and his friends are sent into a small town to help negotiate a treaty between rival gangs. The two negotiators are quickly ambushed and will need to rely on desperate measure if they hope to evade these two gangs and return home to safety.
"Maybe you're too rich for this business."
Takeshi Kitano, director of The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, Outrage, Beyond Outrage, Boiling Point, Violent Cop, Dolls, and Brother, delivers Sonatine. The storyline for this picture is very interesting and unfolds fairly well. There are some awkward scenes, but some intense and well done action. The cast includes Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kokumai, and Tetsu Watanabe.
"I'd feel safe when I'm pissing."
I found this on Netflix and had to add it to my queue. I enjoyed this film for the most part. There were some awkward sequences that I felt were misguided, but the film itself is definitely worth a viewing. I probably wouldn't add it to my DVD collection.
The film is gripping and uncompromising in its action, yet enjoys its most captivating, blissful moments as the gang enjoys an impromptu beach holiday. In particular, a playful battle with fireworks and a staged sumo scrap to mimic a table-top game provide the most idiosyncratic, indelible images. But, of course, you can never get too comfortable when 'Beat' Takeshi is at the helm...
The film follows Murukawa (played by Kitano himself) a Tokyo situated yakuza who is sent to Okinawa in order to settle a dispute between two different gang factions. Upon his arrival Murakawa realises that his presence isn't needed and, he, along with his gang, move to the beach to relive their adolescent happiness.
In a cinematic sense 'Sonatine' is very similar to Kitano's earlier features; once again he adopts a minimalistic existential atmosphere and intertwines moments of surreal dream like beauty with harsh, unforgiving violence. Murukawa's obvious suicidal tendencies (established by a game of Russian roulette) are juxtaposed throughout the film by his childlike sense of humour and his quietly caring nature, in this sense Murukawa is elevated against Kitano's similar earlier characters resulting in a deeper feeling of gravitas.
Musically Kitano once again returns to Joe Hisashi (most famous for his work with Studio Ghibli), who weaves an emotive score that compliments the film's beautiful imagery and thematics without being overly manipulative or relied upon.
Overall 'Sonatine' is a moving character study about reservedness in Japanese culture and the impermanence of innocence, the film's poignant finale is arguably Kitano's most powerful to date and will stick with you long after the credits finish rolling. A true materpiece.
While Takeshi Kitano has worked in any number of genres over the years, when it came to directing, he started with the yakuza film. Many great Japanese directors do (Takashi Miike was getting his start directing V-cinema yakuza flicks around the same time Kitano started, for example). But in front of the camera, Kitano had already spent years as a sketch comedian. It was inevitable that eventually these two disciplines would cross in his work. It ended up not taking long at all; Sonatine, Kitano's fourth picture, blends action and absurd in such a way as to have become a favorite of many of Kitano's fans.
Aniki Murakawa (Kitano) is a Tokyo-based yakuza who runs an inept, but lucrative, gang. Their boss sends the whole crew to Okinawa on what seems to be a routine mission-but when they get there, they find out it's anything but routine and suspect they've been set up. Wounded, the gang retire to a local deserted beach to lay low, heal, and plot their revenge. On their first night there, Aniki rescues beautiful, naïve Miyuki (Aya Kokumai in her screen debut) from an assailant, and for a time, the cares of the world slip away, and the beach hideaway becomes a world apart...but revenge is always knocking on the door.
This should be obvious, but it seems to have not been for some people: this is not a typical gangster movie, any more than the gangster movies of Kitano's idol Jean-Luc Godard were actually gangster movies. If you go into this expecting endless gunplay, you're going to hate it. The core of the film is the time the characters spend at the beach; the yakuza stuff surrounding it is a frame. (Compare and contrast to Godard's Pierrot le Fou, to which this film is an homage, or one of Miike's best efforts, The Bird People in China, which cleaves to the same theme.) It's not about action, it's about soul-searching and redemption and all that stuff that features so prominently in Kitano's comedic films (Kikujiro is an obvious choice here, and Achilles and the Tortoise is another qualifier). And if you go into it looking for THAT, you're going to get much more out of it. Personally, I think it's a wonderful thing indeed, and recommend it without hesitation, though it's not as good as Kikujiro. *** 1/2