`Brother' moves, but it's too detached

October 05, 2001

Brother

Rated R (violence, adult language)

Sun score: **

Brother, Japanese director Takeshi Kitano's first film made in America, is so bloody that it's impossible not to become inured to it.

Fittingly, Kitano seems to have directed on autopilot. Filmed largely in wide-angle shots and avoiding close-ups whenever possible (perhaps to emphasize the way the hero has de-personalized his world) Brother, opening tomorrow at the Charles Theatre, also must be among the most lackadaisical gangster films ever made. A little detachment can do wonders for a film, but here, it simply overwhelms everything else.

Yamamoto (Kitano, using his stage name of Beat Takeshi) is an exiled Japanese mobster, a member of the yakuza, who transplants his violent ways to L.A., then watches helplessly as it careens out of control. He learns the United States is not Japan, and the Japanese expatriates he surrounds himself with, try as they might, are not true yakuza.

Kitano plays Yamamoto as a sort of gangland Buster Keaton, with an emotionless face and eyes hidden behind sunglasses. The affectation is intriguing at first, but soon grows tiresome. As Denny, the American drug dealer he befriends and even respects, Omar Epps is about the only actor allowed to emote. He does, sometimes too much - his favorite trick is repeating the same phrase over and over.

"You Japanese are so inscrutable," a deli owner tells Yamamoto near the end of the film.

Inscrutable? Perhaps. Inert? No.

- Chris Kaltenbach

Max Keeble's Big Move

Rated PG

Sun score: *1/2

Boy has crush on a gorgeous girl in his class, totally overlooking the sweet, pigtailed one who has been his best friend. Boy has visions of being cool, but learns it's more important to be loyal. Boy must battle evil adults to become a hero.

It's formulaic, long and more than a bit silly. But that's not to say the kids won't like Disney's Max Keeble's Big Move.

Alex D. Linz is Max, whose parents (Robert Carradine and Nora Dunn in dull turns as a mousy advertising exec and compulsively redecorating housewife) tell him they are moving. He sees a chance to take his revenge on the bullies, the principal and the evil ice cream man without consequences.

Boy learns there are always consequences.

Knight Ridder/Tribune

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