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Sony Pictures Classics
Official Site
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Producer: Masayuki Mori, Jeremy Thomas
Written by: Takeshi Kitano
Cast: Omar Epps, Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, Tony Colitti, Ryo Ishibashi, Massaya Kato, Claude Maki, Joy Nakagawa, Ren Osugi, James Shigeta, Antwon Tanner, Susumu Terajima, Tetsuya Watari, Tatyana M. Ali, Wanda-Lee Evans

Rating: out of 5

As much as I like a good action thriller, I don’t like movies where the entertainment factor is based on how creative and bloody the death scenes are. Takeshi "Beat" Kitano, a household name in Japan, is known for hyper-violent Yakuza (Japanese gangster) movies such as SONATINE. Thus I went to my first Kitano movie, his latest tour de blood BROTHER, with some trepidation.

As it turns out, while I did watch some portions of this film peeking between my fingers, I couldn’t help thinking whether people reacted the same way when they first saw THE GODFATHER. Because in the midst of the shootings and knifings, there is actually a fatalistic gangster-epic story revolving around the strict codes of honor of the Yakuza.

The Tokyo gangster family that Yamamoto (Kitano) belongs to has fallen victim to an enforced merger and acquisition by a rival family. Yamamoto flees to the United States to join his long-lost younger brother (Maki) who works at the bottom in the drug industry distribution chain. That does not last long, as big brother shows him how things are done in the big leagues, by vertically integrating and cutting out the Mexican middlemen, then acquiring other operations. During this heady expansion phase, life is good; everyone starts wearing designer suits and traveling by stretch limousine, to the point where the accountant tells them they are spending too much (I kid you not). Along the way, Yamamoto becomes friends with Denny (Epps), the African American in this multicultural start-up. However, when the cocky youngsters decide to take on the Italian mafia, the results are as obvious as a software company trying to take on Microsoft, and soon our little entrepreneurs end up as so many dot-coms did—dead.

The early scenes between Kitano and Epps provide most of the humor (and humanity) in BROTHER. While what constitutes honorable behavior amongst the Yakuza made me cringe, learning how this harsh underworld society operates was oddly intriguing, the way that learning new uses for a horse’s head was intriguing.

In short, BROTHER is the movie for you if any or all of the following apply to you:

  1. you believe in pumping as many bullets into a person as possible, even after they are dead
  2. you find Kitano’s single-statement acting style enigmatic
  3. you are always looking for new uses for chopsticks.

—Sandhya Shardanand

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...

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