Like spasms rocking a corpse, violence keeps interrupting the otherwise placid surfaces of Brother, writer-director-star Takeshi "Beat" Kitano's first foray into American film. The most placid surface of them all is Kitano's face, which makes Charles Bronson's look like Jim Carrey's. In such movies as Violent Cop, Sonatine and Fireworks, Kitano has pursued his own version of Clint Eastwood's Man with No Name; and in Brother, where he plays a Japanese gangster who has to get out of town, he chases it all the way to the boulevard of broken dreams. His character arrives in Los Angeles and, with maniacal detachment, starts taking over the local drug trade. It's a suicide mission, basically, as if a samurai were slowly committing hara-kiri. But Kitano also has some things to say about friendship, inserting a storyline with Omar Epps as the yakuza's brother-under-the-skin. This honor-among-thieves existentialism is Kitano's contribution to the mano-a-mano cinema of John Ford and Sam Peckinpah, and it gives Brother a much-needed layer of sentiment. But you'll never see a trace of that sentiment on Kitano's death-mask face.