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Sonatine (1993)

I have no idea what this cover means, seriously

Director: Kitano Takeshi
Writers: Kitano Takeshi
Date: 1993

Genre: Yakuza, Drama
Description: Yakuzas at the beach having fun, gang wars, living life despite being a gangster

Cast: Kitano Takeshi, Terajima Susumu, Kokumai Aya, Osugi Ren, Watanabe Tetsu, Katsumura Masanobu, Zushi Tonbo, Yajima Kenichi, Minakata Eiji

Crew of note: Music by Joe Hisaishi

Runtime: 94 mins.
Color: Color

Murakawa is a Yakuza quickly rising through the ranks, accumulating influence and power along the way. Rival bosses and the Godfather start to get jealous, and they send him and his gang to Okinawa to settle a gang dispute that everyone knows is impossible to fix. After a few mishaps along the way, Murakawa and his buddies decide to hide out for a while, before contemplating their next move.

Tattoos, guns, violence, hot chicks and black Mercedes Benzes. These are usually the things associated with Yakuza, along with a reputation for being cool badasses that cut off their fingers and shoot people. Lots, and lots, and lots of people. Though there’s a lot of violence in this movie (machine guns, grenades, blabbybla), for long stretches it’s easy to forget that the central gang in this film is a bunch of ruthless gangsters.

This is one of the few movies that shows a group of Yakuza not being yakuza. Not exactly “normal lives” because of the circumstances, but certainly more normal than their everyday activities. The film “humanizes” them–I suppose that’s the terminology–, but the more appropriate thing to say, I think, is that the characters are simply allowed to do nothing, to get bored, and to experience the monotony of.. a bunch of guys stuck at the beach. Bored out of their nuts. And it’s fascinating.

Kitano is known for serene moments interrupted by bouts of violence–it’s his thing–and we’ve seen it many times since. That doesn’t make it any less effective, because Kitano, Terajima and the lot are all natural comedians in Yakuza’s tattoos. It’s almost a frat-comedy, but with guns, blood and middle-aged men.

In the end, the movie still sticks to some Yakuza film formulas, and once you’ve seen enough Kitano, it’s easy to predict what will happen.. but this really is just another Yakuza movie, with the “boring” parts include.

We all know movie Yakuzas are badasses. But what happens when they’re bored (in between jobs)? Well, pretty much this movie, sandwiched between their normal Yakuza lives. Fascinating really is the word, because this is a side of Yakuza not often seen, not often heard, not often this interesting.

things to take note of
The comedy + the violence
The gang’s transformation as they hide out

best moment
Sumo wrestling
Laundry and shower day

why you should watch this
A Yakuza comedy action drama
Kitano shows a bit of his comedy side along with his tough Yakuza routine
Susumu Terajima, the omnipresent sidekick

rating: 8.6

Plot: B+
Cast: B
Cinematography: B+
Music: A
Entertainment: B

similar movies, maybe:
Hana-bi, directed by Kitano
I don’t think there are many movies where Yakuza’s actually do any of the things they do




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