A Japanese Yakuza gangster is exiled to the United States. Takeshi settles in Los Angeles where his younger
Internationally acclaimed director and Japanese media phenomenon Takeshi Kitano follows up his well-regarded Kikujiro with this straight-ahead gangster saga with a cross-cultural twist. The film focuses on Yamamoto (Kitano), a yakuza forced out of the country when a gang war all but wipes out his clan. Armed with a fake credit card, a forged passport, and a bag of money, he journeys to the strange and foreign land of Los Angeles to join his half-brother Ken (Claude Maki), who works as a low-rent street tough alongside fast-talking hustler Denny (Omar Epps). With brutal efficiency, the poker-faced Yamamoto starts staking out turf and organizing Ken's mob into one of the most powerful criminal syndicates in the city. As his gang grows in number and power, he is joined by Kato (Kitano regular Susumu Terajima), his former lieutenant from Japan, who entreats Little Tokyo's pathological crime boss Shirase (Masaya Kato) to join the group. Yamamoto seems unstoppable until his gang runs afoul of the Mafia.
Director Takeshi Kitano's Brother is a film about a Japanese tough guy played by Beat Takeshi (which is the name Kitano uses as an actor) who travels from Tokyo to Los Angeles to find his sibling and then becomes involved in violent confrontations between Japanese gang members and the Mafia. It is, in other words a movie in the crime and action genres, and as such you might expect Joe Hisaishi's score, his sixth for a Kitano film, to be full of rhythmic, dramatic music befitting the subject matter. If so, you'd be surprised. Hisaishi's music, most of it played by the New Japan Philharmonic, is full of low-key, melodic classical and jazz touches more appropriate to a romance or, perhaps, at most, a downbeat mystery or police procedural. With many of the cues featuring Tomanao Hara's flugelhorn, the sound is often reminiscent of Gato Barbieri's music for Last Tango in Paris. Only "Raging Men" and the title track (presented in original and remixed versions) have the driving style typical of a film of this type. The result is refreshing, at least in terms of most action film soundtracks.