Kitano comes to America and again shows he is one of the best, most versatile and underrated (in the West) directors. Brother has a lot of action, violence, humour, and style but Kitano still finds time for his usual existential ponderings and quiet, contemplative scenes. It is a film about comradeship, about overcoming racial (amongst others) boundaries to gain respect and friendship.
Kitano stars, with shades, as Aniki Yamamoto a Japanese Yakuza member famed for his abilities, loyalty, and strengths. He is forced to leave the country and goes to America in search of a younger brother he has not seen in years. There he realises that his brother is a small-time gangster, and that he can help his gang to become the most powerful in the city. Soon he sparks up an unlikely friendship between himself and his brother’s gang and earns their respect by his coolness under pressure and knowledge of the trade. His plan works well, but soon other local gangsters decide to team up against him leading to death, revenge, and honour.
Again there is more said in a single glance than by five minutes of dialogue, though Kitano realises the difference between West and East in this regard, and the Americans are shouty from the start. There is the usual sadness throughout the film which permeates most of Kitano’s work, but there is plenty of humour too. Kitano gives another cool performance, Epps is good as Denny, as is Maki as Kitano’s brother Ken who has become Americanised. The violence is not as shocking as in his other films, but is just as sudden, fast, and meaningful. There are few directors around at the moment with this style- emotionally strong, character driven stories with stylish violence, and Kitano is one of the even fewer who can repeatedly pull it off.
The DVD has a couple of interesting extras which add to the value and viewing experience. At under a tenner, it’s a worthy addition to fans of Asian and World cinema
As always, please comment on the movie and the review- Is this amongst Kitano’s best or do you feel he watered things down for a Western audience?