Japan's king of the artistically extra-violent yakuza flick, Takeshi Kitano (aka "Beat" Takeshi), makes his English language debut in "Brother," a heavy, moody L.A. gangland drama that has all the bloody shootouts the writer-director-actor is known for, but loses its grip as it tries to grab for an emotional hook.
Kitano stars as a hunted Tokyo mob enforcer who escapes to Los Angeles after a turf war that left his clan decimated and his own brother acquiescing to the enemy. He muscles in on the operation of another, younger half-brother (Claude Maki) who is scraping by as a petty thug, and quickly organizes the brother's shabby crew into a merciless force poised to take over the local territories of both street and Mafia gangs.
There's a vicious circle, rise-and-fall element to Kitano's story in "Brother," as he rapidly builds a minor empire with his brother and another fiercely distrusting lieutenant, played by Omar Epps ("In Too Deep," "Love and Basketball") at his side. Just the gang's move from a small room in the back of a warehouse to a swanky office in a converted gymnasium (complete with leather couches, a redwood conference table and an accountant) should be enough to signal impending and violent storm clouds on the horizon in the minds of savvy moviegoers.
Continue reading: Brother Review