Quentin Tarantino is said to have borrowed extensively from Japanese gangster flicks for his debut, Reservoir Dogs. Takeshi Kitano returns the compliment, except Brother only looks cod Tarantino because the territory has been so polluted by imitators it is difficult to tell the genuine from the repro.

Kitano writes, directs and edits his movies, as well as takes the lead role, using his TV comedy name, Beat Takeshi. He works fast, like Clint Eastwood.

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This is his first venture into the States. The performances of his mainly Japanese cast and the Californian locations are not so different from Sonatine, or Violent Cop, with the exception of Omar Epps, one of a new breed of talented black actors, who plays a neighbourhood drug dealer's homeboy.

Takeshi is small, thick set, with bandy legs and a disconcerting twitch to his cheek. Playing a psychopathic member of a yakuza clan, called Yamamoto, who is forced to flee Tokyo after one killing too many, he is the archetypal silent hitman who likes nothing better than emptying handguns into the tailored chests of rival mobsters.

The plot plays around with every cliche of the genre, often with humour. Kitano's style does not imitate others and can look ragged at the edges, as if deliberately taking the piss out of comicbook Hollywood violence.

Yamamoto meets up with a half brother in LA and expands his drug dealing business into a major industry by assassinating the opposition, only to come face-to-face with an equally ruthless Italian Mafia.

Being Japanese, there is much emphasis on honour and pride. People chop their fingers off to prove loyalty and, in one particularly nasty occasion, go so far as disembowelment to show, "I have guts".

This, one assumes, is Kitano's idea of a joke.

Reviewed on: 04 Apr 2001
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An exiled yakuza leads a drug war against the mafia.
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Daniel Hooper ***

Director: Takeshi Kitano

Writer: Takeshi Kitano

Starring: Beat Takeshi, Omar Epps, Claude Maki, Masaya Kato, Susumu Terajima, Ren Ohsugi

Year: 2000

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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