A real masterpiece. Kitano at his finest. An incredible piece of cinema!
Kitano stars as Murakawa, an extremely powerful and intimidating Yakuza. As one of the most trusted in the gang, he is sent on a mission with some of his men to Okinawa to help end a dispute between rival factions. This is no easy task as chaos erupts around them. Realising they have been had, Murakawa and his men decide to retreat and lay low at a seaside hideaway.
From the trailer and synopsis you might be lead to believe this is an action Yakuza film. But it's far from it. There is shoot outs at the beginning and end, and a few set pieces in between. But a large chunk of the film is Kitano and his men just killing time at a beach, and that's actually when the film is most interesting and entertaining.
Like his acclaimed and arguably best film Hana-Bi, Sonatine is a relatively peaceful film but with moments of extreme violence inserted in.
Some of the games the men play to kill time are a real highlight of the film. Such as shooting cans off of each others head. Or Russian roulette, with Murakawa(Kitano) joining in, you never know what to expect. And lastly, after playing a game with paper Sumo wrestlers, they decide to have a go for real. After a Sumo match, the paper Sumo game almost becomes real. While the men stand frozen like the paper wrestlers and the spectators bang the floor around them while they bounce up and down and into one another. Truly bizarre yet highly entertaining.
Another beautiful dream like soundtrack composed by the excellent Joe Hisaishi. The main theme is spectacular and sets the mood of the entire film.
Hana-Bi may be Kitano's masterpiece. But part of me will always prefer the charm and wit of Sonatine. Hidden behind all the juvenile games and humour, there is actually a deep moving story.
A truly fantastic must see film.