Nishi is a cop whose wife is slowly dying of leukemia. One of his partners gets shot on the job, which results in him being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life and becoming suicidal. Nishi, feeling guilty of his partner's accident, tries to help him in any way he can. At the same time, Nishi leaves the police to spend more time with his dying wife. However, in order to do the right things for those he loves, Nishi must do something wrong, which has tragic consequences. Written by
Hana-bi (AKA: Fireworks) is written and directed by Takeshi Kitano. It stars Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi and Susumu Terajima. Music is by Joe Hisaishi and cinematography by Hideo Yamamoto.
Yoshikata Nishi (Kitano) is a loose cannon police detective who quits the force after a tragic incident results in his partner, Horibe (Osugi), being confined to a wheelchair. His retirement brings him the time to care more for his seriously ill wife Miyuki (Kishimoto). Nishi can find no peace, though, more so as he has borrowed money from the Yakuza to pay for his wife's needs, and they are growing impatient for the repayment...
Very early in Kitano's superb slice of Japanese neo-noir there is a piece of graffiti on the wall, it says "Drop Dead", while Hisaishi's music is a devilish accompaniment to the scene. It's ominous and foreboding, setting the tone for what is to follow. Pic is deliberately paced, beautifully so, with the opening nonlinear approach and scattergun shifts in time adding a sort of psychological maelstrom to the impending narrative darkness.
Yet to suggest it as a perpetually bleak picture is doing it a small disservice, for Kitano (himself working from a damaged psyche that occurred in real life) has this adroit eye for poetic beauty and human tenderness that marries up with bursts of violence and emotionally shattering passages of play. And it works brilliantly, with stabs of humour also filtering in via the outer frames.
Nishi the character is a force of nature and a walking - brooding - contradiction, a man pained behind his sunglasses, his expressionless visage amazingly still saying so much. When he explodes the impact is doubly strong, mainly because dialogue is so sparse, but the interwoven visuals - very much a Kitano speciality - strike an almighty chord for the story. To which we edge towards the finale, which unsurprisingly brings beauty and infinite sadness.
Unfussy camera work, sabre sharp editing (Kitano & Yoshinori Oota), elegiacal musical arrangements, art, kites and Kitano's intense performance, this rounds out as film making greatness. In fact, a masterpiece. 10/10
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