Movie Review

Sonatine (1998)

MPAA Rating: R
EW's GRADE
C-

Details Rated: R; Genres: Action/Adventure, Foreign Language, Mystery and Thriller; With: Takeshi Kitano

It used to be that when filmmakers were celebrated for their ''formalist'' imagination, they were furrowed-browed metaphysicians (Tarkovsky, Kieslowski) out to reassemble the cosmos on film. Japan's Takeshi Kitano has no such ambition. He's just a weirdly somber avant-garde doodler tossing crime-thriller motifs into the Cuisinart, and since he stars in his own films, wearing the same fixed expression of Robert Mitchum-as-samurai-gangster bemusement in nearly every scene, his gimcrack absurdism can be taken as the latest in existential chic. If only it were more entertaining! Made in 1993, Sonatine casts Kitano as an icy underworld boss who, along with some flaky henchmen, kills time on a beach as he waits to mediate an amorphous gang war. The picture ricochets from random urban Mob hits to horseplay in the sand that wouldn't have looked out of place on The Monkees. By the time Kitano threatens to put a gun to his own head, his stoic hard case has grown detached from everything he's surveying — and so has the audience. C-

Originally posted May 01, 1998 Published in issue #429 May 01, 1998 Order article reprints
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