Continuing my Takeshi Kitano string of films, I decided to move on to Sonatine. It is another in the line of movies that star Takeshi as well as being written and directed by him. The plot, as is typical for his films, revolves around a series of events in the life of a Japanese gangster. Two rival gangs are looking to start a war and Takeshi’s gang gets dragged in to negotiate. Things go wrong, people get shot and their group is forced into hiding while they wait for things to be resolved by the big boss.
The movies starts out with the standard gangster stuff going on, but it doesn’t take long before it shifts into the stylized character film that Takeshi is known for. He and his group of gangsters retire to a beach hideout where they play pranks on each other, drink, goof off, engage in mock battles with fireworks and just generally wait around for something to happen. Those unfamiliar with Takeshi’s work may feel like the audience is waiting around for something to happen as well, but the movie isn’t truly about the action. It’s a look into the regular people that even gangsters are - a character study reflected through the slightly surreal workings of Takeshi’s brain. The plot is merely a backdrop to the true message behind the story.
It’s not one of his best films, but I found myself pleasantly surprised. The interactions of the characters can be quite amusing at times, though when it comes to the darker side of the story, Takeshi doesn’t try to candy coat anything or make everyone live happily ever after. As is his habit, the majority of the characters end up dead and usually in non-heroic ways. It is a story about the contrast between light and dark in men and the inevitably tragic end that the gangster lifestyle leads to - albeit perhaps a bit overdramatized. Worth a watch for Takeshi fans, though others may not be able to make it all the way through.