Document type
20 March 2001
Format viewed


picture: Brother (2000)picture: Brother (2000)

Original title
Takeshi KITANO
  • Takeshi KITANO
  • Claude MAKI
  • Omar Epps
  • Susumu TERAJIMA
  • Ren OSUGI
  • Tetsuya WATARI
  • Masaya KATO
Running time
115 mins.

picture: Brother (2000)

Tom Mes

Brother is not a good film. In fact, it's probably one of Kitano's sloppiest and laziest productions. There are many things at fault here. Its story of a disgraced yakuza setting up shop in LA and turning his brother's (played by Claude/Kurodo Maki from A Scene at the Sea) posse of street-corner punks into a genuine crime outfit suffers from predictability, an abundance of racial and genre stereotypes, mediocre acting, and above all an inescapable sense of familiarity.

A none too inventive homage to (or appropriation of elements from) American gangster films, Brother opens like a very belated reaction to Ridley Scott's Black Rain (with the roles reversed, but maintaining the same misplaced sense of ethnic supremacy) before moving into Scarface and Godfather territory, with all the requisite elements firmly, and predictably, in place (car bombs, dead family members, tense meetings between rivals, assassinations in the toilet).

The film is in fact so pre-occupied with stereotypes of the genre that it even inherits the racial stereotypes about the Japanese. In the scenes of the yakuza's dealings back home there is so much pinky-chopping (and even a harakiri courtesy of Ren Osugi) going on that you question if this film was actually made by a Japanese person. Surely no-one can be this naive about their own culture? Especially someone who for most of his career has attempted to get away from genre stereotypes.

The story is served up in true Kitano fashion, which means that the approach to all these familiar genre elements is in itself overly familiar. Kitano can do this sort of thing with his eyes closed by now, and Brother sometimes feels like he probably did.

And yet, I can't help but like this film. For all its faults, Brother still manages to entertain. The familiarity and genre stereotypes are bearable because that same characteristic approach makes everything so goddamn likeable. Brother has a sense of humour about itself and this proves to be its saving grace.

Audiences expecting something on a par with Hana-bi or the aforementioned Scene at the Sea will walk away feeling cheated and disappointed (much the feeling I had after seeing the universally praised Kikujiro). As strange as it may sound, those wishing to be entertained will have few complaints.


Sony Pictures (USA)

picture: DVD cover of 'Brother'

Region 1. English subtitles.

Cinema Club (UK)

picture: DVD cover of 'Brother'

Region 2. English subtitles.

Universe (Hong Kong)

picture: DVD cover of 'Brother'

Region 3. English, Chinese subtitles.

Buy at:

Fantom (Korea)

picture: DVD cover of 'Brother'

Region 3. Korean, Japanese subtitles.

Buy at:

TF1 Video (France)

picture: DVD cover of 'Brother'

Region 2. French subtitles.

Buy at:

Bandai Visual (Japan)

picture: DVD cover of 'Brother'

Region 2. Japanese subtitles.

Buy at: