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Sonatine ★★★ 1996 (R)

Middle-age Yakuza mobster Murakama (director Kitano, using his screen name Beat Takeshi) wishes to retire but is instead sent to mediate a low-level gang war. Upon arrival, an attempt is made on his life, so he and his men hole up at a beach house. The young punks of the gang engage in horseplay and antics that indicate their violent natures and signal that all will not remain calm for long. Kitano's performance, writing, and direction are superb, understating the violence while not glamorizing it, and showing the effect it has on the man who carries it out. The relatively tranquil setting of the hideout allows some humor and character development, as well as preventing the cliches that usually pop up in this type of movie. Ever on the prowl for Far East gangster chic, Tarantino's Rolling Thunder brought this one to U.S. shores. Japanese with subtitles. 93m/C VHS, DVD . JP Takeshi “Beat” Kitano, Aya Kokumai, Tetsu Watanabe, Masanobu Katsumura, Susumu Terashima, Ren Osugi, Tonbo Zushi, Eiji Minakata, Kenichi Yajima; D: Takeshi “Beat” Kitano; W: Takeshi “Beat” Kitano; C: Katsumi Yanagishima; M: Jo Hasaishi.