A yakuza chief who’s turned up in LA helps his brother form an alliance between Japanese and black gangsters, which rivals the city’s Italian Mafia only until the new syndicate clashes with the old. The chief, played by writer-director-editor Takeshi Kitano (aka Beat Takeshi), exhales self-parody and cool in the same breath. Though he bonds with local Omar Epps in the buddy configuration typical of action comedy, Kitano’s handling of this convention—and of extreme violence—is unique. The buddies are characterized by deceptively simple twists on acknowledged stereotypes, and their intimacy evolves gradually through an accumulation of small gestures. A wizard at manipulating time, Kitano introduces staccato elements that interrupt the meditative pace even as they help set it. And he uses this paradoxically peaceful tension to inspire in us a kind of spiritual response to the violence—a sensation that’s utterly different from the visceral reaction we have to most actioners, which we only hope is catharsis. 113 min.