L.A. Beat
Review by Ross Anthony

Beat Kitano, though famous in Japan, may be little known here. I first saw him in another film he'd scripted and directed, "Kikujiro." While not a perfect film, his lovable thug (thugable?) character endeared me almost immediately with infinite confidence, harsh honesty, brute, and a shimmering glint of heart.

Getting the audience to sympathize (let alone "love") a cold-blooded killer is a feat that seems to come naturally to Kitano. Probably it's the subtle sideways humor that follows his character like dirt follows Schultz's "Pig Pen."

That wonderful humor graces the first half of "Brother." More or less exiled from Japan, yakuza gangster Aniki (Beat) moves to L.A. in search of his much younger brother. The brother pushes drugs on the street with three of his friends - one of whom is Omar Epps. These four street punks are in for a real education on how to be bad guys.

Epps and Kitano sit at a table staring at each other, this scene lights up the theater without a single word. Later, Kitano does a great job of directing our four young hoodlums -- as uncomfortable in their tough guy roles as live fish in a sushi bar. Mobster kindergarten.

Unfortunately, these journeymen fill their goon shoes too soon, robbing the film of nearly all its humor by half time where laughs are replaced with slayings. No more fun, just gun gang warfare and some plot progressions that further separate audiences from protagonist sympathies.

Technically speaking, very occasional angular mounted shots add nothing and stick out as adding nothing. Also, as with "Kikujiro" some "follow the moving talent" shots would have benefited the overall movement of the picture were they considerably shorter.

Still, I just had to see a film coupling Kitano and Epps; both are actors I enjoy and respect, but would have never imagined sharing the same screen. Though "Brother" doesn't leave much of an impression on the whole, it certainly has it's memorable moments -- like the ending monologue, or the wide shot of our four bad guys dressed in three piece black suits playing football on the bright sand seashore while some cheesy light jazz tune floats happily over the sound track. And I did enjoy the Kitano/Epps contrasting chemistry.

  • Brother. Copyright © 2001. Rated NC-17.
  • Starring Takeshi (Beat) Kitano, Omar Epps, Claude Maki, Masaya Dato, Susumu, Terajima, Royale Watkins, Lombardo Boyar, Ren Ohsugi, Ryo Ishibashi, James Shigeta.
  • Directed by Beat.
  • Written by Beat.
  • Produced by Masayuki Mori, Jeremy Thomas. Released by Sony Classics (C)2001.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

chili4 special olympians
power5 ra hforh radiop

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:19:39 PDT