Former Police officer Nishi (Takeshi Kitano) feels responsible for the shattered lives of his loved ones. His partner Horibe (Ren Ôsugi) has been crippled in a disastrous stakeout, a colleague is shot dead by the same villain, and his own wife has a terminal illness. In debt to a yakuza loanshark, Nishi conceives a bank robbery to provide for his partner, help the dead cop's widow, and take one last holiday throughout Japan with his wife and share a final taste of happiness...
A melancholy and violent masterpiece.
- Fireworks review by Shatner's Bassoon
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You rated this film: 5
Written, directed, and starring Takeshi Kitano, 'Hana-bi' is a complex and powerful film revolving around the life of Nishi, a quiet but violent Tokyo cop plagued with bad luck. With his four year old daughter dead, his wife is terminally ill with leukaemia and his best friend paralysed after a shooting; he decides life's too short and quits the force to take his dying wife around Japan hoping he can make her final days the best he can. However, this act of spontaneity leads Nishi to make a series of bad choices, one of which involves borrowing money from the local Yakuza, and every attempt Nishi makes to resolve the problems in his life only drives him deeper into desperation and desperate acts. Overall 'Hana-bi' is a film full of emotion, on one hand the film shows Nishi as a tough, unforgiving and incredibly violent man, while at other times he is a man full of sorrow and sympathy for those close to him, and yet also a man who finds it hard to grieve, who only now realises after spending too much time at work and not enough at home how much he loves his wife. The direction, soundtrack and quality of acting is superb and if you've never experienced Takeshi Kitano's work then 'Hana-bi' is a great place to start.
The style of direction did not appeal to me. There are long scenes of quiet, unemotional ordinariness punctuated with extreme violence. The characters are cold and remote. I was not captured, as a previous reviewer, by any strong emotions. The main character is unlucky but any sense of compassion is lost by the constant use of flashbacks and forwards.