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Laramie Movie Scope:

The Big Doze

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 8, 2005 -- “Sonatine” is a Japanese film that demonstrates how Japanese mobsters lead meaningless, empty lives without a shred of passion or hope. It gets this point across very well by demonstrating that yakusa underlings are always bored, no matter what they do. Most of the film consists of mobsters sitting, or standing around with bored-looking expressions. Occasionally, they shoot or stab each other, but even then, they look bored. One mobster, shot in the stomach and bleeding to death, looks bored while dying.

Two other characters look on while another gets shot in the head and falls dead in front of them. They look bored. In a bar, a blazing gun battle breaks out. Bullets, blood and bodies fly all over, and all of the participants look bored.

About the only time this particular yakusa gang doesn't look bored is when it should be. The gang hides out in a beach shack waiting for further orders. It is apparent that the yakusa bosses don't particularly care if any of these people survive, since they were sent on a fool's errand in the first place. Left to their own devices, the crooks play various games on the beach, like shooting cans off each other's heads, shooting at flying frisbees, sumo wrestling and playing with paper dolls. They sometimes have fun, show interest and have discernable facial expressions when playing these games. Most of the time, however, they are just bored.

The only thing that keeps you awake during this film is the tension. When one small-time crook insults a member of the yakusa, you know he's going to be punished. You just don't know how or when. You keep waiting for that bullet, so there is suspense. It was hard for me to tell one boring character from another at times. It was even harder to tell who was mad at whom and why and who was attacking whom and why, since everyone seemed a lot more bored than they were angry.

This made it all the more surprising when sporadic murder happens, and it adds to the tension. How could such bored people work up the energy to kill anybody? I initially saw this film on DVD. The DVD has brief commentaries before and after the film “called an intro and an outro.” In it, famed director Quentin Tarantino calls the director's style “minimalist.” No kidding! He also says this film resurrected the yakusa genre. It is amazing it didn't put it to sleep for good. I also read that the director of the film, Takeshi Kitano (who also stars as the film's main character) was suicidal at the time the film was made. What a shock! This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)