"Definately one of Kitano's best films. Maybe even his finest film..."

- Len

Fireworks (1997)

Literally: Fire Flowers

AKA: Hana-Bi

Director: Kitano Takeshi

Producers: Masayuki Mori, Yasushi Tsuge, Takio Yoshida

Writer: Kitano Takeshi

Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Kayoko Kishimoto, Ren Osugi, Susumu Terajima, Tetsu Watanabe, Hakuryu, Yasuei Yakushiji, Taro Istumi, Kenichi Yajima, Makoto Ashikawa, Yûko Daike

Running Time: 103 min.

Plot: See Len's review below.

Availability: This title is available at


EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: Hana-bi was the first Takeshi Kitano film (directed) I'd seen. I really wish I'd waited until I'd seen some of his others first, because none of the others even compare. As much as I love all his films, Hana-bi was heads and shoulders above the rest.

I won't spoil the story, because that's not really the important thing about the film, anyway. The important thing about the film is Nishi's (Kitano) relationship with his wife, his former partner, Detective Horibe, and the yakuza thugs that are constantly hounding him. It's amazing to see how sensitive (yet distant, at the same time) he can be with his wife, then how close he can be with his former police detective partner (who was wounded in the line of duty and is now wheelchair bound), and how he can turn all that right around and be an unflinching killer of the yakuza thugs.

The music, the paintings, the cinematography, the direction and the acting in Hana-bi all add up to one of the most heartfelt, moving and personal movies Kitano could have come up with, while still including his signature flashes of extreme violence. Hisaishi's brilliant and distinct score just adds to the dramatic, isolated and tragic feel of the movie. It would simply not have been the same with a score by anyone else.

Anyone who is a fan of film at all needs to do themselves a favor and see Hana-bi as soon as possible. Kitano's masterpiece is guaranteed not to disappoint.


JESSE'S REVIEW: Dark. Deep. Poetic. Beautiful. Violent. Harsh. Depressing. Optimistic. Stark. Amazing. These are just a few words that can be used to describe Takeshi Kitano's brilliant 1997 film Hana-Bi, or Fireworks as it is known in English-speaking countries. Kitano stars as Nishi, a cop with a haunted past and a grim future. Nishi is in debt to a group of high-ranking Yakuza after borrowing money to help pay for the treatment of his wife's (Kayoko Kishimoto) cancer. Early on in the film, Nishi's partner Horibe (Ren Osugi) is shot and is forced to live the rest of his days confined to a wheelchair. Horibe's family disowns him, and Nishi does the best that he can do to help his good friend get through the hard times. While at the same time Nishi plans to rob a bank in order to pay off his debts and take his wife on one last trip before she is gone forever. As Horibe discovers hope in the form of art, Nishi begins his downfall, taking orders from no one and stopping at nothing to get what he wants. One man is reborn while the other continues on an increasing path of self-destruction and pain.
What makes Hana-Bi such a great movie? Let's start off with all the standard features typically found in a Kitano film: a story that is simple yet very complex in its thematic value, a magnificent score by Joe Hisaishi that is both subtle and rousing at the same time, the long pauses that create a tense atmosphere and Kitano's ability to film scenes without any flashy camera trickery, and finally the extraordinary performance by the always dependable Takeshi Kitano as the lead. Hana-Bi is very slow paced and not much happens during the first 50 minutes or so, but those slow moments help develop and enrich the characters in the film and create a steady build-up to the heartbreaking and explosive finale. Kitano's Nishi is a man who does not avoid violence, but at the same time acts as an extremely gentle and loving husband to his dying wife. He is quick to deal out the necessary carnage when facing the low-life thugs who want his money, but shows great amounts of compassion for his suicidal ex-partner and cancer-stricken wife. As Nishi plans the bank robbery to get the money that he needs to go on the vacation with his wife and get the Yakuza off his back, he calmly prepares for what might be the end for him and any of those persons that are close to him. In a collection of playful and humorous scenes, we watch as Nishi purchases a stolen car and spray paints it as he gets ready for the big heist. During those same moments, the wheelchair-bound Horibe is touched by a group of paintings that he comes across and nearly breaks down as he discovers what will keep him from losing all control and ending his life. Nishi robs the bank without any trouble and he and his wife journey to the beach where they spend their final moments together. The brutally dark tone of the film is momentarily lifted as we see Nishi and his wife joking around and doing the things that any happy couple would do on an outing together. A hint of nihilism hangs over the whole time, but for those brief moments of joy, Nishi and his wife (and the viewer) experience bliss as they forget all their problems and indulge in life's pleasures.

The climax of the film is certainly something that will either fill your eyes with water or leave you feeling somewhat cold on the inside (or both), but the downbeat conclusion does not erase the good times that Nishi and his wife spent together as both their worlds came crashing down. Hana-Bi is reminiscent of the French New Wave films of the 60's with its eccentric characters and outbursts of violence in a poignant setting. The actors' outstanding performances combined with Kitano's spot-on direction make Hana-Bi a modern classic that is also a huge roller coaster ride filled with emotion. Hana-Bi is a film that is not to be missed. 


LEN'S REVIEW: Sometimes I've thought which one is the better film, Sonatine or Hana-Bi. However, it makes little sense to try and compare these two. Both of them are excellent films, and definately the two best films that Kitano has made.

Kitano plays Nishi, a cop who's forced to take extreme measures to ensure that his dying wife enjoys her last days, while his partner is searching for reasons to live after he gets incapacitated in a shooting.


If I was any better at analyzing films, I'd write some stuff about how this film deals with typical Kitano themes of alienation and emotional detachment. However, I am dreadful at trying to analyze films, so I'll keep it very short. Anyways, what I first noticed about the film was that unlike other Kitano films which are mostly about one character, this is essentially a tale of two similiar people, one of them manages to survive while the other's decisions put him in a dead end. Horibe manages to find meaning to his life and resists the urge to end his misery. Nishi's actions on the otherhand make his demise unavoidable, and it's easy to see from the beginning that his story can't have a happy ending, as the consequences of his actions will inevitably reach him. Depending on one's viewpoint obviously. It might be argued that instead of being forced to use extreme measures, Nishi considered them to be perfectly acceptable, as he had intended to end his life at the same time as his wife no matter what (actually, this is the way I assume Kitano meant it).

One of my favorite things about this film was the relationship between Nishi and his wife. When I first saw the film, I felt like their marriage had died to the point where they couldn't find really anything to say to eachother, and could only communicate by actions. However, it seems more like they have both been so deeply affected by a tragedy (it's revealed that their daughter had died), that they're both inhabiting a shared little world where few words are needed.

Ok, enough with the crappy film analysis now, here are my opinions on the actual film: Definately one of Kitano's best films. Maybe even his finest film, as Hana-Bi is alot more refined than Sonatine, but on the other hand, it lacks some of pitchblack humour and brutality of his earlier works. Nevermind about that though, and just see this.