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Starring: Takeshi Kitano, Aya Kikumai, Tetsu Watanabe
MPAA Rated: R
Released By: Rolling Thunder Pictures
Kiddie Movie: Oh no, I don't think so.
Date Movie: Tough call - art films can be a lot more personal.
Gratuitous Sex: The girly takes off her shirt, but that's about it.
Gratuitous Violence: Lots and lots of it.
Action: Not really, but some gunfights.
Laughs: A couple of chuckles.
Memorable Scene: The gunfight in the elevator.
Memorable Quote: Murakawa asks, as they're about to drown someone, "How long can he stay under?" He's replied to "A couple of minutes." He comes back, "Let's try two minutes."
Directed By: Takeshi Kitano

A Movie Review

MPAA Rated - R

It's 1:39 Long

A Review by
The Dude on the Right
"Sonatine" is a movie most of you probably will never see, and maybe that's too bad. It's being released in the United States by Rolling Thunder Pictures, but being a subtitled, Japanese, art-type film, well, it most likely won't make it to your corner multiplex. What you will miss, however, is something most American filmmakers seem to be lacking these days - the guts to give a film an ending that is realistic, tragic even, while staying away from the "Sappy, you'll go home feeling good" ending. Along with a kick-ass ending you'll also miss a film that does drag in spots (I guess that goes along with the artsy thing), might have you wondering "What the hell was that scene for?" (maybe that goes along with that artsy thing, too), doesn't really give you a clear picture of what is really going on (more artsy?), makes good use of a crane, and has some of the best violence I've seen in a film in a long time. Here's the story in a little nutshell..

"Sonatine" tells us of a gang war in Japan. Murakawa (Takeshi Kitano) is directed by his bosses to take some dudes to Okinawa and hopefully smooth things out to stop a gang war, but he's getting tired of gang life and is wanting things to go well, and go quickly, so he can maybe get out of the game. He senses this won't be the case when they are greeted by a bullet flying through a window in their meeting room. The war begins. Murakawa looses some of his men to a bomb explosion, some more in a kick-ass gunfight in a local bar, and it is time for Murakawa to retreat and regroup, and what better place to retreat regroup than a beach house, far away from anywhere. It is now time for our film to turn from a gang war to some classic male-bonding.

At the beach, we begin to see that it is good to be the king, or at least the leader of his pack. Here, in no particular order, Murakawa scams some of the youngins in a game of Russian Roulette, tricks some of the youngins into falling into some traps, kills a dude trying to rape a young lovely, has the young lovely fall for him (it is good to be the king), is allowed to use a gun during the Roman Candle fight, and just all around shows why he is the experienced gangster while the others are still just learning. They're having fun, bonding as men bond, but I'm hoping some more killing and gunfights are coming soon because some of their entertaining is resulting in guys wearing dresses and dancing around. Well, I wasn't disappointed - it's back to the city for revenge, and let's just say that if you want to have a gunfight where no one can run away, try an elevator.

In the end our hero makes it through, and now searches for his way out - and he finds it, while his young lovely waits for him on the hill. For a change, our hero, well, I was glad to see the movie end the way it did.

So, the movie sounds like a great shoot-em-up, bunch of guys getting liquored up and bonding, maybe some sex, and non-stop action doesn't it? Well, nope. Yes, there is some excellent graphic violence and blood, the young lovely takes off her shirt, and guys get liquored up, but in keeping this movie an art film you'll have to sit through a lot of scenes that are probably symbolic (I began to get really tired of watching a car drive artistically down the hilly road, and am still wondering about the scene shift to our young lovely playing on the beach with a Roman Candle and getting caught in one of Murakawa's traps and then the shift back to a hotel gunfight), you'll have to sometimes sit and wonder why our supposedly bad-ass gangsters don't seem to bad-ass after all, you'll have to read subtitles, and well, in between all of the violence and little bit of sex, this is still more of an art film working hard to be creative rather than just an action-packed thriller - I think you get the point.

So, in the end, what did I think? Well, honestly, I'm not really one for art films, especially subtitled where I have to do too much thinking, but that wasn't really the problem I had with "Sonatine." I guess I was just really bothered that combined with scenes that seemed to drag, and other scenes that just left me confused, wondering "What's the point?", or "Who the hell is that guy, who is he working for, and why is that youngin just standing there as he's pointing a gun at his head?", I just didn't like the way the film was shot, especially with the seeming potential a lot of the scenes had (I hate getting artsy like that - but it bothered me). And the odd thing about that - it wasn't the violent scenes that seemed to lack substance, it was the fun scenes, the beach scenes, the office scenes, and just about every other scene that didn't have people blasting others away. But, it did have that ending, when the potential for sappiness was so prevalent, so I can get over some of the confusion, some of the cinematography, and not totally hate this picture.

Well, it's a tough call for me on this one. If you're one for a movie that works to combine elements of an art film with some kick-ass violence than "Sonatine" might just knock your socks off; If you can push aside the art stuff of the film, don't really care about following the story line, but just want to see some quality scenes of people getting shot, "Sonatine" will be for you; But, if you're used to American film making, with a story you don't have to think too much about, or want a happy ending, you'll probably be pissed you spent your money on this film. It's 3 stars out of 5 from me for "Sonatine."

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right!!! L8R!!


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