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Reviewed April 21st, 2002 by David Nusair


Takeshi Kitano’s Brother is a jumbled mess of violence and chaos, without any sort of coherent storyline or even decent acting to support it.

Kitano, who stars in the movie under the alias “Beat”, plays a Japanese yakuza – which is just an exotic way of saying gangster. After some troubles in his homeland, he heads for Los Angeles. There, he immediately hooks up with a gang of black thugs (lead by the usually charismatic Omar Epps) and attempts to establish some kind of a foothold in the local underground economy. He does this by murdering as many rival gang members as he possibly can, with the assistance of his new crew along with a few stragglers from his old life. Much violence ensues.

With a setup like that, you can’t go wrong – right? Wrong. Brother is comprised of a series of flashbacks and barely-connected sequences that never add up to anything. Kitano, who’s actually a well-respected action director though I’ve never seen any of his other films, proves to be completely incompetent at stringing together even a marginally involving narrative. There’s no flow to this movie – it just plods along from one disconnected sequence to another. Sure, some of the violence is cool (the death of a would-be-assassin via broken chopsticks is certainly a highlight), but random acts of brutality just aren’t enough to balance Brother’s refusal to embrace a traditional narrative.

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the film contains some truly awful performances. Leading the pack is Kitano himself, who gives new meaning to the term “wooden.” Now, to be fair, the man is afflicted with some sort of a disorder rendering half of his face paralyzed and a lot of his fans feel that this is what makes him so unique. True enough, but since Kitano is apparently unable to form any facial expressions (save one: A painful-looking grimace), it’s near impossible to identify or root with this guy. Maybe that was the point; create this soulless killer that ruins the lives of virtually everyone he comes in contact with. Still, it’s still a movie, and as such, we need to have some kind of a focal point (character wise). Epps, an actor who’s usually quite charming and likable, is reduced to delivering cheesy monologues while driving alone in a car. Nobody looks good here.

Brother tries to be something different – to bring a fresh spin to a tired genre – but instead resembles an arty student film (complete with jump cuts and disjointed narrative).

Audio: Brother comes armed with a DD 5.1 Japanese soundtrack, which doesn’t really make sense considering the majority of the film is in English. Nevertheless, this is an acceptable soundtrack. Dialogue is clear, though the use of spatial effects is quite limited.

Video: This 1.85:1 transfer is also acceptable, though nothing special. Brother was clearly filmed on a low budget, leading to a good amount of grain. But the quality of the DVD image itself is fairly good, without any artifacts.

Extras: Not much, aside from trailers for Time and Tide, Gen-X Cops, and Love and a Bullet.

Conclusion: Takeshi Kitano’s earlier works are considered classics. Having seen Brother, I’m not sure how willing I am to watch anything else by the man.


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