When thinking of yakuza, one does not normally think of contemplative, almost zen-like stillness. Yet Takeshi Kitano's 1993 film Sonatine
owes more to Ozu than Suzuki with its tranquil, unhurried shots of characters sitting and talking about things that don't necessarily move the plot forward. Evidence of the characters' familiarity with violence and fear creeps into the substance of scenes, though, making this a peculiarly sedate and yet striking perspective on life in organised crime.
The film centres on Murakawa (Takeshi Kitano) who is caught up in some kind of intrigue with his own gang and another. Both seem to want him dead but Murakawa barely seems to care, for the most part expressing no emotion but a vaguely melancholy weariness. Eventually, he ends up hiding out at a beach house in Okinawa with a few of his subordinates.
Two of his younger subordinates discover they're from the same part of Tokyo and they have conversations about places and people they both know. A few moments suggest a suppressed homosexual attraction between the two, particularly a scene where the two play with a doll.
Murakawa seems to be keeping his true feelings suppressed as well as he explains to a girl named Miyuki (Aya Kokumai) that despite appearances he's in a constant state of fear and that's why he's so quick and sure with a gun.
He meets Miyuki after a witnessing a young man trying to rape her one evening. Murakawa doesn't seem to care very much about what he's witnessing and doesn't seem like he'd get involved except the would-be rapist becomes angry when he notices he's being watched and attacks Murakawa. We don't find out very much about Miyuki, who falls in love with him, her character seeming to exist to provide an alternate route into a more loving and stable lifestyle, but like the attraction between his two subordinates, he seems cut off from the possibility by his own ingrained patterns of thought and emotion.
Most of the movie consists of scenes of the group of misfits on the beach, playing games that would seem normal except eventually gunplay gets involved. A strange Russian Roulette scene early on on the one hand seems to show Murakawa's methods of inspiring fear are only a front but on the other hand it seems to confirm, along with what he said to Miyuki, that he's on a quiet, inexorable path of self-destruction.