The fourth outing as director for Takeshi Kitano marks a growing maturity and a further evolution of his visual style. Sonatine is a relentlessly nihilistic film, about how a man can lose his humanity, even his will to live, through constant exposure to violence and killing.
Kitano is Murakawa, a successful Yakuza boss who is persuaded to leave his patch in Tokyo to go to the aid of a gang in Okinawa engaged in a turf war with a rival clan, only to find he's been duped. After a shoot-out in a bar, Murakawa and his crew hole up in a beach hide out, which comprises the second third of the film. The pace slows to a crawl, and what started out as a gangster film becomes an obliquely humorous exercise in killing time.
It's unusual for sure, and more thoughtful than your average Yakuza flick, but at the same time, impenetrably cold. Murakawa has a certain jaded charisma, but on more than one occasion, when the camera lingers on his emotionless face and the faces of other yakuza, you realize you're watching a film about gruesome banality; hollow men, past the point of no return. And if that's the intention, then you would have to say Sonatine is a success.
Dir. Takeshi Kitano, 1993