Detective Nishi (the ever-impressive `Beat' Kitano) is a deeply troubled man; his partner Horibe (Osugi) has been left paralysed from the waist down after a botched stake-out, while his own wife Miyuki (Kishimoto) is diagnosed as having terminal cancer. Nishi resigns from the force and resolves to take Miyuki on a second honeymoon before her death. But the yakuza loan sharks are soon on his tail.
Hana-Bi, whose title means "flower and fire", is the latest offering from Japanese director Kitano (Sonatine, Violent Cop), tipped by John Woo to become the next Asian film-maker to make it big in the States. Switching back and forth in time, and almost entirely dispensing with dialogue, he blends bursts of savage violence with moments of comic absurdity and scenes of touching tenderness between Nishi and Miyuki.
The exquisite visual compositions (which include the director's own paintings) and the melancholic score, help contribute to a remarkably lyrical and elegiac piece of cinema.