Sonatine (1993)

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Released 13-Apr-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Takeshi Kitano Trailers
Trailer-Eastern Eye Promotional Trailers
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 89:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Takeshi Kitano
Madman Entertainment
Starring Takeshi Kitano
Aya Kokumai
Tetsu Watanabe
Masanobu Katsumura
Susumu Terajima
Ren Osugi
Tonbo Zushi
Ken'ichi Yajima
Eiji Minakata
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI ? Music Joe Hisaishi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes, frequently
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Writer, actor and director Takeshi Kitano is a true genius of Japanese and World cinema. Sonatine is his fourth film and it is a masterpiece. Visually stunning, technically innovative, touchingly beautiful, powerful and violent, sometimes in the same scene, Sonatine can leave you breathless.

     Murakawa (Takeshi Kitano) is an aging Yakuza thinking about retirement. He is a violent man, capable without a second thought of torturing and drowning the owner of a business who refuses to pay him off. When his gang boss Takahashi (Ken'ichi Yajima) asks him to go to Okinawa to settle a dispute between rival yakuza factions he is reluctant, sensing there is more at stake. And he is right: after their arrival Murakawa and his men become the targets of a bombing and an attack by gunmen in a club. With his remaining men Murakawa retreats to an isolated beach house to await developments. There they entertain themselves with games, pranks, fireworks and sumo while Murakawa, despite himself, becomes involved with the lovely Miyuki (Aya Kokumai). When the group are stalked by an assassin it becomes obvious that they have been set up, so Murakawa decides to establish just who is deceiving who.

     Kitano as a filmmaker is sparse on dialogue but long on pure cinema where the vision and music predominate. Kitano's technique does not feature quick pans or jump cuts: instead there are long slow tracking shots, static camera placement, long silences and sharp, brutal action. Sonatine is a film of breathtaking imagery, whether long static takes of the isolated beach and approach road or the enhanced colour palate of bars. The visuals are supported by the sublime score of Joe Hisaishi that won Best Music Score at the 1994 Awards of the Japanese Academy. His music is sparse and minimalist, a perfect accompaniment to the film. Indeed, the film does not feature extended "action" scenes as such - instead there are slow build-ups, with the camera concentrating on close ups of faces, before violence that is quickly over. Perhaps surprisingly, Sonatine on occasion is very funny with a dead pan sense of humour. This gives the film its human moments as the gang members pass their time with games by the sea. It is this humanity, as we get to know the gang members, which gives the sudden violence and the climax its raw power.

     Sonatine is, quite simply, wonderful cinema; a filmmaking master class from a true genius of Japanese and World cinema.

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Transfer Quality


    Sonatine is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The print is not perfect; there is an occasional artefact (one very obvious one at 48:12), grain (32:04) and edge enhancement (3:55) but blacks are solid and shadow detail very good. As in other films, Kitano makes use of bright light sources behind the actor which affects the sharpness (for example 2:01, 4:07) but otherwise the film looks fine. The colour palate varies, and Kitano often uses enhanced colours for dramatic effect. None of the items described are overly distracting nor spoil the enjoyment of the film.

English subtitles are the only option. They are in an easy to read yellow font and contain no obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Sonatine features a Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track that does what is required for a film with long silences. Directional cues are minor but music and ambient sounds in the surrounds are effective and the wonderful score of Joe Hisaishi comes over nicely. Sub woofer use is minimal and does not really support the few explosions. Dialogue is clear, lip synchronisation fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

Presented in 2.35:1, Dolby Digital 2.0, 0:52 min.

Takeshi Kitano Trailers

All trailers are presented in 2.35:1 & Dolby Digital 2.0. Included are Violent Cop (2:11 min), Boiling Point (2:08 min) and Hana-bi (1:56 min).

Promotional Trailers

Numerous trailers presented in diverse aspect ratios and Dolby Digital 2.0. A number are anime and manga titles, including children's titles, which seem unlikely to be attractive to Kitano fans. Included are the Eastern Eye Promo Reel, (music only, 2:21 min., features Bichunmoo, The Eye, Avalon, Bangkok Dangerous, Seven Samurai, Infernal Affairs and Princes Blade), Throne of Blood (3:46 min), Musa (1:24 min), Ong Bak (1:49 min), Zatoichi Meets the One-Eyed Swordsman (this incorrect title is on the disc menu - the correct title is Zatoichi Meets the One-Armed Swordsman) (2:12 min), Godzilla vs Megaguirus (1:18 min), Fat Albert (0:58 min), His and Her Circumstances (1:31 min), Ikki Tousen (also as Ikki Tosen) (1:26 min), Paranoia Agent (1:55 min), Saiyuki (1:36 min) and Blue Gender: The Warrior (3:16 min).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In Region 1 Sonatine has been released only in a 2 disc set with The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi. It is 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 only and includes interviews with Kitano and an introduction and summation by Quentin Tarantino. However, reviewers do not rate the Tarantino section highly. Other releases in Region 2 and Region 3 (Hong Kong) are not 16x9 enhanced. If you already have The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi stick to our Region 4. In addition, you can purchase three Kitano films (Violent Cop, Boiling Point and Sonatine) in this one box set for less than $40 which represents fantastic value for money.


    Sonatine is, quite simply, a wonderful film. Visually stunning, technically innovative, touchingly beautiful, powerful and violent, Sonatine can leave you breathless. The video and audio presentation is acceptable (and does not seem to be bettered elsewhere at present) with minimal extras. Yet, the DVD is worth it for the film alone: do yourself a favour and see Sonatine. It is a filmmaking master class from a true genius of Japanese and World cinema.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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