Takeshi Kitano has etched out his aesthetic pretty assuredly and at the point of a gun, so it’s no use quibbling about how anything by him really conforms to universally held criteria of narrative and character development. On those counts, Sonatine is a bit dull-edged, lacking in emotional immediacy and not very persuasive. Still, you can’t argue with Kitano’s mesmeric attention to rhythm and attitude. On those counts, this is a bold and ballsy movie. The plot has something to do with how a mafioso in the Tokyo underworld is dispatched by his boss to settle a feud between two rival gangs in Okinawa. What he doesn’t know is that he’s himself a target and that his boss has ulterior motives in interceding in the Okinawa feud. Most of the movie preoccupies itself with an oddly dream-like interlude on a beach where the mafioso and his goons have secreted themselves away at a safehouse. They wait for instructions from Tokyo, but when they realize what’s really going down, the mafioso–already jaded by a lifetime of betrayal and fear–must take matters into his own hands. It’s a quietly paced movie whose lightness and comic moments are counterbalanced by punctuations of dispassionately grim violence. Definitely an interesting and worthwhile gangster flick.

Grade: B

Directed by: Takeshi Kitano
Written by: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura


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