Sonatine  - Brian
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Starring: Takeshi Kitano
Reality is not what it seems in this yakuza story about a man and his growing disenchantment with the world around him. The story takes place in Japan where Aniki Murakawa (Takeshi Kitano
) carries out his usual duties as a high-ranking yakuza. These duties involve beatings, collecting debt (which results in coercion through beatings), and killing enemy yakuza (which usually begins with beatings). Having done this for quite a number of years, he has grown numb to the world around him and the shock of what he’s been doing for decades is only made more apparent by the arrival of fresh recruits for his organization.
As Murakawa starts to see a lot of the younger members usurping positions that the older members once held, he begins to wonder and question his place in the world; a world clearly not meant for men like him. Murakawa represents the “old-fashioned” way of thinking where loyalty and honor took precedence over personal gain. The syndicate has become more of a corporation where men are simply expendable resources.
After pissing off the wrong people, Murakawa is sent to settle growing gang wars in Okinawa. However, he quickly becomes enemy #1 and is sent with a small contingent of men to a remote beach. What he doesn’t realize until later is that his territory has become liquid assets in the eyes of the syndicate. Ousted by his own people and his trust and loyalty betrayed, there’s only one thing he can do: revenge.
The pacing in Sonatine is very surreal and dream-like. Events unfold slowly and often subtly, requiring the viewer to really pay attention to what’s happening in conversation as that is one of the few indications we get of what’s happening to the world around Murakawa. Action scenes are few and far between, but are gritty and passionate when they do occur. The joy is visible on Murakawa’s face as events where he is bringing his enemies pain is the only thing that distinguishes those events from the random cavalcade of inconsequential nonsense he encounters every day.
Much of what goes on in the film is bizarre and interpretive. At one point, Murakawa plays Russian roulette with a couple fellow yakuza forcing them to play “rock, paper, scissors” to see who has to put the gun on himself. When it comes to Murakawa’s turn, and the revolver has dry-fired five times, he happily puts the gun to his head only to have the sixth shot never happen. Through some clever sleight of hand, he has put the fear of death in his fellow yakuza without killing anyone. Later, he thinks back to that exact moment only this time the gun goes off.
Some scientists believe that when a person dies so suddenly, so quickly that their body realizes it before the brain, they say that a phantom string of thought briefly remains; one rogue synapse that was fired dwells in the mind for what can seem like an eternity. The progression of the film feels very much like that concept of a “slow death.” Murakawa may enact brutal killings, but he is very much dead inside and much of the events are unwarranted and seem to hold no significance in his life.