In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

Thumb mv5bnda4ymmwmgity2mzos00odjilthmzdetyza5ngu4zjq5yjhixkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjk5nda3otk . v1 sy1000 cr0 0 674 1000 al


God knows how many millions of dollars and hours of manpower went into making and remaking Geostorm but it turns out to have been all…

Thumb same kind of different as me

Same Kind of Different as Me

It can be hard to disagree with the heart and events of this true tale, except for when the movie reveals itself to be mighty…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Journal Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives




The actor Beat Takeshi is a Japanese original, but if you made a list of the American stars he resembles, it would start with Clint Eastwood. The director Takeshi Kitano is also a Japanese original, but if you made a list of the Western filmmakers he resembles, it would reach from Sergio Leone to Jim Jarmusch, with Eastwood somewhere in the middle. But there is no one in Hollywood quite like the two of them put together, and of course they are the same man, using two names to separate his many jobs on the set.


Kitano, for so we will call him, is revered in Japan as an auteur of hard-boiled, minimalist action. His films consist of periods of quiet in which you can feel violence coiling out of sight, and then sudden explosions of mayhem. He is a weathered, deadpan, wary-looking man, a yakuza Jack Webb. He usually wears dark glasses, rarely has much to say and occasionally barks out an amazed little laugh at what life has to offer him. When part of his face was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, it became part of his lore that you couldn't tell which side, because he never moved his facial muscles anyway.

"Brother" is Kitano's deliberate attempt to enter the American market, in a movie set in Los Angeles and essentially in English, although Kitano, unlike Jackie Chan, doesn't pretend fluency. Many of the movie's key situations depend on who speaks English or Japanese, and why--although one enemy dies right after Kitano tells him, in perfect English, "I understand `dirty Jap'." As the movie opens, Yamamoto, Kitano's character, has had to leave Japan suddenly after a gang war has gone against him. In Los Angeles, he teams up with a half-brother (Claude Maki), his African-American partner Denny (Omar Epps) and others in a drug ring. Yamamoto is the catalyst in many situations, simplifying them with the sudden elimination of those he disagrees with. Soon the gang is riding high and has its own headquarters with a private basketball court (a tattooed yakuza complains when the blacks won't pass the ball to him).

Kitano is as much an existentialist as a action hero, however, and his crime movies (like "Sonatine") rarely end with victory for himself and his friends. He is more in love with doom-laden irony, with grand gestures in defeat. His final scene in "Brother" owes more to the defiant last gestures of 1930s Warner Brothers gangsters than to simple-minded modern action pictures that end after all the enemies have been eliminated.

What's fascinating about Kitano is the way he pounces. He specializes in moments of action almost too fast to see (here he resembles Eastwood as The Man with No Name--and Eastwood, of course, was ripping off Mifune in "Yojimbo"). An opponent will say the same thing, there will be a flash of action, and he'll have chopsticks stuck halfway up his nose. A pause for the realization to sink in, and then the sudden blow to push them the rest of the way in. All over in a moment.


"Brother" is a typical Kitano film in many ways, but not one of his best ones. Too many of the killing scenes have a casual, perfunctory tone: lots of gunfire, a row of enemies lies dead, the plot moves on. Finally so many people are dead that the movie looks more like a shooting gallery or a video game than a stylized crime parable.

Kitano, both Beat and Takeshi, is a name that belongs on the list of anyone who wants to be familiar with the key players in modern world cinema, but don't start with "Brother." Rent `Sonatine" or "Fireworks," and then double back.

Popular Blog Posts

"Blade Runner" vs. "Blade Runner 2049"

A Great Movie is hidden somewhere within "Blade Runner" and "Blade Runner 2049."

The Fall of Toxic Masculinity and the Rise of Feminine Consciousness

A special edition of Thumbnails detailing the recent sexual harassment cases in the entertainment and tech industries...

Oscars Could Be Facing Dearth of Diversity Yet Again

A column on the lack of diversity in this year's potential Oscar nominees.

Tears of a Machine: The Humanity of Luv in "Blade Runner 2049"

No character in “Blade Runner 2049” is more relatably human than Luv.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus