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5.0 out of 5 stars Kitano Takes Over America
To describe "Brother" as Takeshi Kitano's American directorial debut is like saying Lost in Translation is a Japanese movie. The speaker would be missing the boat totally. In "Brother" we see Japan and America coming to a cataclysmic impact as Yamamoto (Kitano), a Yakuza mobster, is exiled from Japan and forced to live in America with his...
Published on March 17 2004 by Gerald Browning

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3.0 out of 5 stars O "Brother", Are Thou "Art"?
This is the city. Los Angeles, California. Swimming pools, movie stars, and Yakuza hitmen fighting for control of the streets with Chicano druglords and African-American gangstas. Just another typical day in sunny SoCal, according to Japanese cult director "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, in his first U.S.-released film. Kitano directs himself as the "marked" Yakuza who flees to...
Published on March 19 2003 by D. Hartley


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2.0 out of 5 stars Insight for Japnophiles, but Hanabi was a better film, May 5 2004
By 
N. Field "sanjayfield" (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
Brother may seem like a whole lot of meaningless gore, and in fact I don't think it was a particularly well-made or enjoyable movie, but it provides valuable insight into the Japanese perception of their place in the world. I'm not sure this was intended by the director, but it makes a very interesting contrast to, for example, "Rising Sun", another fairly average movie (can't comment on the book, haven't read it), which showed a very American perspective of the Japanese.
Whereas in Rising Sun, we saw the Japanese as sneaky little yellow men hiding their prejudices, corruption and kinky sex behind polite smiles and a facade of high culture, here Kitano portrays them (or at least the Yakuza) as noble, loyal, selfless, brave warriors, willing to sacrifice all to protect their honour. Quite a contrast!
Rising Sun showed Westerners (represented by the US alone, as usual) as passionate but ultimately rational, independent-minded for the better, and, for the most part at least, genuine (in a "what you see is what you get" sense). Kyoudai (incidentally, the title refers not to any blood relationship between the two main characters - there was none!, but to the "brotherhood" of the Yakuza) shows Westerners as emotionally out-of-control, intellectually lacking, hopelessly disorganised and incapable of any subtlety or restraint. From considerable experience in Japan I can assure you that this is an accurate representation of the stereotype held by many Japanese.
Another (I think) accurate representation of the Japanese mindset in this film lies in the ease with which the Japanese muscle-in on the US underworld. With their diligence, their capacity for cooperation and self-sacrifice towards long-term, collective goals, how could they possibly fail against this disorganised rabble of Westerners?! - this is the attitude presented, and mostly validated in this film. It's very interesting, then, that the "brotherhood" are ultimately unsuccessful in their power-bid. Is this a symbolic recognition that the US has remained militarily and economically supreme? At the least, I feel that the way in which Kitano's character dies again reflects an important facet of the Japanese mindset, being the attitude that there is only ever a choice of complete victory or total failure, conquering the whole of Asia or being stripped of all military power, scoring highly in the University entrance exams or dropping out of the academic world completely - there is absolutely no room for compromise or mediocrity, and thus a willingness follows to sacrifice everything in the bid for that absolute, and possibly elusive, victory. Of course, this has alarming implications for Japan's potential return to military and/or economic power.
But if you want, you can forget my interpretations and just see this movie as a whole lot of meaningless gore.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kitano Takes Over America, March 17 2004
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This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
To describe "Brother" as Takeshi Kitano's American directorial debut is like saying Lost in Translation is a Japanese movie. The speaker would be missing the boat totally. In "Brother" we see Japan and America coming to a cataclysmic impact as Yamamoto (Kitano), a Yakuza mobster, is exiled from Japan and forced to live in America with his half-brother. When Kitano finds out that his brother is a small time drug dealer, Kitano takes his brother (as well as his gang) under his wing and turns them into a crime organization to be reckoned with. They take on a mexican cartel and italian mafia alike. However, we see the theme of brotherhood become more of a theme when he and Denny (played by Omar Epps), another small time drug dealer, create a bond that was never attained by his blood brother.
Kitano uses light and shadow to punctuate the drama, but the most awe inspiring element to his cinematic vision is the use of silence and stillness. When Kitano is on the screen, sometimes he stands like a statue. The silence in his films are deafening (for a remarkable example of this, I refer to the film "Violent Cop").
With the use of Japanese and English language, we are thrust among the cultural barrier of the gang. However, they are able to circumvent this and become true brothers.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Horrible Treatment by Sony Pictures, May 9 2003
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
Kitano's "Brother�Egets eaten and spit out by Sony Pictures US. Not exactly a masterpiece, or the best movie he has done, but it gave a great insight into the Yakuza lifestyle rarely known outside of Japan. But on this DVD, the lackluster treatment of this movie is unforgivable.
If some of the story was a little on the unexplained side, maybe it's because the US version is 30 minutes shorter than the Japanese original. Most of the Japanese sequences were cut, so Americans won't have to read too many subtitles. Great move(?). The DTS audio option was thrown out for some reason, thinking people who might like this movie will not have a DTS decoder. Sony, get with the times!
The biggest problem I had with this DVD was that there were no English subtitles! It is listed as 'English Subtitles�Ebut in fact, it's English Closed Captions, so even when they are speaking English, the captions appear. Luckily I understand both languages, but for anyone else, they would be a headache to sit through.
Extras are very minimal, only trailers for completely unrelated Chinese movies? For a list price so high, it just seems smarter to get the fully loaded Region 2 Japanese release. Believe me the story makes a LOT more sense.
Also, the character that Tetsuya Watari plays is such a minor role in the US version, it was a shame that his name appears in the credits. If you want to check out a role where he actually is part of the MOVIE, get 'Tokyo Drifter�E(Criterion Collection). You'll be a lot happier with that film.
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3.0 out of 5 stars O "Brother", Are Thou "Art"?, March 19 2003
By 
D. Hartley (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
This is the city. Los Angeles, California. Swimming pools, movie stars, and Yakuza hitmen fighting for control of the streets with Chicano druglords and African-American gangstas. Just another typical day in sunny SoCal, according to Japanese cult director "Beat" Takeshi Kitano, in his first U.S.-released film. Kitano directs himself as the "marked" Yakuza who flees to the States, hooks up with his "adopted" brother (a low-level L.A. drug dealer) and his pals, then becomes Crimelord of Los Angeles in what appears to be a period of only a month or two. Action fans will probably be somewhat sated just by the sheer number of killings (I stopped counting after the first 2 dozen) yet turned off by the deliberate pacing and long, static takes. Arthouse fans will admire the deft cinematic touches and hip music score, but will probably find the frequent shootings and self-mutilations a bit overboard. Kitano the actor (an acquired taste) is in top form; Kitano the director seems less confident than usual, as if he was deliberately "dumbing down" for U.S. audiences (and can anyone who has viewed a Vin Diesel movie blame him?). Best enjoyed if you don't think about it too much; genre fans might detect similarities to the existential 60's Yakuza cult classic "Tokyo Drifter".
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Stunning Gangster Movie--and a Breath of Fresh Air, March 18 2003
By 
Stephen Kaczmarek "Educator, Writer, Consultant" (Columbus, Ohio United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
As introspective as it is violent, "Brother" manages to do what few Hollywood gangster films can--entertain and make you think. To call the plot Shakespearean almost seems an insult, as its sensibilities are so obviously Japanese, with the emphasis not on the action but on the effects of it, but careful observers may see strains of "Macbeth" and "Richard III" in this very grown-up feature (with a little Sergio Leone thrown in). Director and star Takeshi Kitano follows the last days of a disgraced Yakuza in America, whose brilliant but brutal rise to power in modern L.A. is matched only by the intensity of his loyalty to his friends and half-brother. Omar Epps is a likable presence as one of those friends, and the many familiar Japanese-American faces--including veteran James Shigeta--blends ably with the mostly Japanese cast. But it is Kitano that delivers the goods, wisely choosing to underplay Yamamoto as a pillar of quiet strength rather than allow him to become broad-based caricature. In fact, the understated tone of the film is what gives it so much style and intensity; few American films would be bold enough to focus less on the shoot 'em ups and more on the aftermath or to raise the issue of black-on-Asian racism in a gangster movie. That the story ends up pretty much where you expect it to is less a flaw than the culmination of a satisfying slow burn, making this gem a must-see.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kitano - Master Japanese Director - Not his best movie, Jan. 14 2003
By 
MarkWG. (Chicago, IL) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
Takeshi Kitano is a respected Japanese film director. His films are brutal dramas of life in the Japanese mafia, not action thrillers, but slowly paced and carefully constructed commentary on the meaning of violence, honor, and even love. He uses long stretches of silence, and shots in which very little movement takes place. These serve to give the film a pensive atmosphere, and contrast with bursts of violence coming out of nowhere, with no warning and no stylistic embellishment. Kitano stabs a man with the exact same level of intensity as he turns on a light switch. Gunfights in Kitano's movies are often nothing more than two combatants standing in a room firing bullet after bullet into each other until only the one with the most willpower is left standing. The standard Kitano "hero" is doomed from the start, as are basically all the other characters. The background of mafia violence is not the focus of the film, but is used to intensify its message. Kitano's philosophy is that in order to show the greatest of one thing, you must show it's opposite. In order to show the greatest love, and the greatest peace, one must show the strongest hatred and violence. The experience of watching one of his films is unique. They are quite powerful, unlike anything else being made today.
That said, 'Brother' is not as good as most Kitano films. It doesn't seem to have that much original to say. What is does do well is transplant perfectly Kitano's style from Japan to the United States. As a fan I enjoyed the film and am sure other Kitano fans will as well.
Newcomers to Kitano's films may expect this to be an action movie. They will be disappointed. This movie needs to be watched and judged it for what it is, a piece of art first and entertainment second.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brother Doesn't Let You Down !, Dec 30 2002
By 
Armando M. Mesa (Chandler, AZ) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
Take it for what it's worth !!! It's clean and explosive visual and aural action ! One cannot get confused or lost with the plot (not much of a twist to it but still suffices)...For those who liked La Femme Nikita (original 1990 French version) and Leon/The Professional will definitely find themselves hooked on this film from the lead actor to it's cinematic/somewhat classical score ! A friend of mine said the musical score did not fit this movie;he's wrong ! The soundtrack avoids making the stereotypical cliche of using cheap synthesized pulsating pop music...The score gives the film it's dramatic edge without getting campy.Actor/director Takeshi Kitano does a suave yet brutal portrayal as a yakuza leader from the "old school" who begins to clean house and claim territory from other rival mobs and gangsters.
On the dvd audio/video technical side, the video transfer is clean and the digital surround is mind-blowing ! Special off screen sound effects pan around the room convincingly and effectively.The bass produced by the explosions and weaponry used is simply an adrenalin induced experience...
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2.0 out of 5 stars Obtuse, synthetic, and silly albeit very stylish nonsense, Nov. 11 2002
By 
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
I had to smile when in the second-last scene a character's dialogue (subtitle) include the word "inscrutable". That is the term I had been contemplating since about 10 minutes into this vapid two hour flic.
I'm really stunned by some other reviews saying things like "Japanese version of The Godfather" and "accurate portrayal of the Yakuza". The only Godfather this might compare to, on rating alone, would be Godfather III which was a bomb. And this is a valid portrayal of Yakuza gansters only if your average Yakuza is a suicidal halfwit with the emotions and intellect of a delinquent street urchin.
"Brother" has a stylish light-jazz soundtrack, very hip art direction and a cool aesthetic look which are enough to make you want to like the film.
Unfortunately, that's a tall order. The dialogue is juvenile (at least the english subtitling anyway), perhaps the Japanese language is better. The characters are plastic and one dimensional. The script is ludicrous, not the slightest grasp on reality of gangster society. Law enforcement is virtually non-existent in this movie since the gangster can slaughter each other in non-stop extravagant violence and almost never encounter the police. Killing is wanton and practically without any character motivation or response much of the time ... you're just left wondering. Compared to other gangster flics, there is almost no credibility in any part of this story.
This movie is optimized aesthetic silliness, with mindless two-second murders by the dozen, all committed to a jazzy sax soundtrack. At the midpoint, I was pondering whether to continue watching as the movie descended into the abyss. I only persisted to the end in order to see how low would actually sink.
This movie is as bad as "Knock Off", "The Negotiator", and "Showdown in Little Tokyo", probably worse.
If you really want to see an ultra-hip, stylized, aesthetics-over-plot film, try "The Odd One Dies" (Hong Kong, 1997) or "Fallen Angels" (1995), both with Takeshi Kaneshiro. Or an equally obtuse and bizarre film, but nonetheless very stylized action pulp noire, try Seijun Suzuki's classic "Branded To Kill" (1967). Or better yet, try "The Big Hit" (1998) with mark Wahlberg and Lou Diamond Phillips, which is another mindless but entertaining killing spree which doesn't take itself too seriously.
"Brother" is a disappointment. It is very nicely art-directed, and not much else. This is not the "Godfather" of the Yakuza genre. I am not flying solo in my critical view, the 69 reviews on RT have it at 51% thumbs down. One reviewer summed up my feelings well in his comment: "Rarely has such an artful aesthetic been used to craft such sadistically violent junk."...
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3.0 out of 5 stars 5*s a brilliant movie, but buy R2 or R3 -- this one is cut!, July 7 2002
By 
"sweetback" (Adelaide, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
Sony has cut this version, removing some of the scenes spoken in japanese as well as digitally editing out some of the gore and changing the colour palette.
the UK R2 version is apparently the best, but for US buyers the fact that it is in PAL format is a major problem, unless you happen to have a television that can playback in PAL or your DVD player converts it for you. Simply dezoning the player is not sufficient. You won't get any picture.
the Japan and Hong Kong R3 versions I believe are both in NTSC. The Japan version might be anamorphic (like the UK version) but the Hong Kong version is non-anamorphic. These are both in DTS. The Hong Kong version might be the best bet for US buyers as the menus are in English. It is often on ebay.
The Australian R4 version is 'rental only' but can be found in second hand shops. Big problems: it is in pan&scan (4:3). It is uncut, however, and the colours are the original muted palette.
I went for the UK R2 version and I'd urge all non-US English language buyers to do the same.
P.S. Another issue with the R3 Hong Kong version -- the English subtitles appear during all the dialogue, whereas in the R2 UK version the subtitles appear only when characters are speaking in non-English languages. Also, some of the extras that appear on the UK version -- such as the documentary -- are not on the Hong Kong version. Also, a new R4 version has been released for sale; I have not viewed this version. I remain very happy with my R2 UK version.
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3.0 out of 5 stars America Ruins a Great Film., June 27 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Brother (Sous-titres français) (DVD)
I recently rented Brother on DVD here in america last week. And was saddened to find that they edited a fair amount of scenes from the original version. The movie still functions with the scenes edited out, but I felt that these edited scenes brought more clarity to the movie. The edited amereican version doesn't quite have that clarity, and therefore suffers somewhat. The edited scenes were mostly in Japanese, and gave background on why Takeshi's character was going to LA. . Perhaps the studio felt that american viewers do not like to read subtitles or don't like seeing people in other countries. I am not sure why this was done, but I think that it takes away from the movie and shortchanges the viewer. Anyhow, it is Takeshi being Takeshi, and the movie is well done. Not a bad crossover film for Takeshi and Kitano. It's rather humourous at times and there is enough bad [butt]edness going around to make even the seasoned action flix fan happy. I would give it 5 stars had they not messed with it and edited scenes from the original.
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Brother (Sous-titres français)
Brother (Sous-titres français) by Takeshi Kitano (DVD - 2002)
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