Critics tend to fawn over the Japanese director-star Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. Beat Takeshi), but am I the only one who finds his films impossible to make heads or tails of? Kitano presides over Brother, his first American production (it’s set mostly in Los Angeles and costars Omar Epps), the same way that he did over violent yakuza head scratchers like Fireworks and Sonatine: He creates a mood of cryptic anticipatory chest puffing shattered by jolts of gooey-bloody gunplay, with nearly every scene organized around the image of his weary, handsome, sandpaper-skinned mug.
In Brother, Kitano’s tough-lug hero stares straight ahead with a wordless outlaw deadpan that makes the Clint Eastwood of A Fistful of Dollars look like Robin Williams on a helium jag. He might be contemplating Buddhist koans, dreaming up new ways to commit hara-kiri, or meditating on the blowfish he just had for breakfast. The movie is so incoherent that it wouldn’t make any difference.