director: takeshi "beat" tikano
takeshi kitano, omar epps

. Takeshi “Beat” Kitano is famous in Japan for his stark, violent crime films, almost like samurai movies except for the parched, skeletal honour of the characters and the gargantuan body counts.

Brother follows Yamamoto, played by Kitano, a devoted yakuza who is forced to leave Japan when his “family” is liquidated in a gang war. He finds his younger brother living in a curiously unpopulated Los Angeles, as a small time drug dealer, and sets about making his little gang a powerful criminal organization. After this, the plot reduces itself to a serenely simple logic: Bad things happen. To everyone. With guns. And knives. And bombs.

Kitano’s queasy-making violence is accompanied by a faint but unmistakable sentimentality that’s meant to find redeeming qualities in his cast of sociopaths. By the end of Brother it doesn’t work, and the corpse-littered stage, supposed to be as tragic as Hamlet, seems instead to be a relief. A final scene with Omar Epps, as the American hoodlum who is saved by Yamamoto’s self-sacrifice, falls utterly flat, leaving a rather dull and ugly feeling about the whole film.