Sonatine (1993) Review

"Sonatine" American Theatrical Poster

"Sonatine" American Theatrical Poster

Director: Takeshi Kitano
Writer: Takeshi Kitano
Producer: Masayuki Mori, Hisao Nabeshima, Taiko Yoshida
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kikumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura, Susumu Terajima, Ren Ohsugi, Eiji Minakata
Running Time: 90 min.

By Len

One word: Genius. I could write 400 words on how much I love this film and it still wouldn’t be enough. To me, this represents all that is good in Kitano’s cinema.

Kitano plays Murakawa, a respected leader of a group of Yakuza who are sent to the tropical island of Okinawa to intervene in a gang war. However, instead of bringing peace, after their arrival, things go terribly wrong and Murakawa’s group is soon forced to go hiding on a small seaside hideaway. They start killing time by playing various beach games but can’t escape the eventual showdown.

I first saw this film when I was fifteen. I remember my reaction being something like “WTF? This is fucking queer” and went back to watch the last 30 minutes of Hard-Boiled again. How idiotic I was. This film is pure excellence. In every way. From the touching score by Joe Hisaishi to the amazing acting talent (especially Susumu Terajima and that old yakuza guy were brilliant), this film’s got it all.

One thing that struck me first was that this film is absolutely hilarious. Here it’s easy to see Kitano’s comedian background, from the small comedic dialogues between characters to the absurd pranks and games played by the yakuza gangsters on the beach, this film never ceases to amuse the viewer. That is, when it’s not shocking the audience with some pretty gruesome violence (not quite as bad as Hana-Bi or Violent Cop though).

However, even though Sonatine is certainly very violent and has plenty of hilarious scenes, it’s still a typical Kitano film and does have depth. Especially the main characters are all interesting, and feel like real people. Pretty weird people, but real anyways. I especially liked the philosophic ideas of Kitanos character. He wants to die because his fear of dying makes his life not worth living, and death would merely put an end to his fear and misery. This kind of absurd logic is what makes Kitano’s films generally very interesting to watch, and while some might say that Sonatine lacks the tranquil meditation about human nature that Hana-Bi for example has, I think that in it’s own way, Sonatine is a film of many layers, and should not be treated merely as a violent black comedy.

Len’s Rating: 10/10

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