Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Beat Takeshi, Omar Epps, Claude Maki
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Audio: English/Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, & French
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 113 Minutes
Release Date: January 2, 2002

Film **

Brother is a somewhat intriguing exercise in the staging of high-powered sequences of violence and bloodbath shootouts. Iíve hardly ever come across a movie that illustrates a certain body count level with a certain touch of art before. One such scene in the movie is that of a shootout aftermath, where all of the dead bodies are laying next to one another, resulting in the formation of the Japanese symbol for ďdeathĒ. Takeshi Kitano, a celebrated master of action films in Japan and like many filmmakers from that country, has attempted to bring his unique form of moviemaking to the states with this film. While I was very much dazzled by the filmís excessive gunplay and execution scenes, the movie surrounding it was one that frankly, left me a little dazed and confused.

The movie is told, from what I can tell, much in the style of an old Sergio Leone western, as the main character, Yamamoto, portrayed by Kitano under the name Beat Takeshi, arrives in Los Angeles. He is there to elude the gang war that has gone against him in Japan. He is also there to meet up with his half-brother, Ken (Claude Miki), and his drug ring that also includes the hotheaded hustler Denny (Omar Epps). Yamamotoís first encounter in LA is with Denny who, not knowing who he really is, threatens to mug him, and gets a glass bottle to the eye in return. Itís somewhat amusing to note that the incident is never referred to again, and that the two are quickly thereafter earnest alliances.

Thatís basically all I can summarize of the story, not because I wish to give anything, but because thatís basically all there is to it. The rest of the movie consists of prolonged scenes of drug lords and gang members torturing enemies in the most extreme ways. You could say that the rest of the plot pretty much consists of almost every single remaining character getting knocked off, right up until the last man is left standing. Not every central character is killed in the end, but it sure feels that way.

Brother is a triumph of violent action but certainly not of story. This was my first experience with Takeshi Kitano, and I can certainly say that he has the edge for action moviemaking, but I can certainly state that heís nowhere near the level of John Woo, whose movies have the same amount of action, but also contain richly involving tales, something which Brother canít be classified as.

One final footnote, the movie is spoken in both English and Japanese, a rare occasion. So you might want to leave your subtitles on throughout the movie.

Video ***

A nice, moderate effort from Columbia Tri Star on the video job. The picture on Brother is mostly clear and sharp, and enhances the style which the action scenes carry. The only flaw in the presentation is a few scenes of softness and graininess in a couple of scenes both early and late in the film. Overall, a very acceptable viewing.

Audio ***1/2

For a movie that contains a plentiful amount of shooting and action, Columbia Tri Star certainly did their homework for this audio track. Like youíd expect from an action movie, the sound is consistently sharp and filled with tense, booming quality in the 5.1 digital presentation.

Features *

Just three bonus trailers for three other CTS releases; Time and Tide, Gen-X Cops, and Love and a Bullet.


Brother is a noteworthy effort in terms of its action quality, but a much better, more understandable storyline was needed to make this an overall success.