I love Hana-Bi for a lot of reasons: it’s very sad, very beautiful, and has an awesome Joe Hisaishi score. One reason why I love it sorta eluded me for awhile, and I think now I figured it out: it’s the unusual take on the “vengeful cop” story.
Imagine the typical cop movie plot: cops are on a stakeout, waiting for Bad Guy to show up. Hero Cop has personal business he’d rather be tending to, so Hero Cop’s Partner takes over his shift. Bad Guy shows up and guns Partner down. Hero Cop swears to make the sonofabitch pay, no matter what it takes, and after a long chase and many unethical Dirty Harry decisions, Bad Guy finally pays.
Now imagine all of this has already happened and is only occasionally revealed in flashback, while the meat of the film is the aftermath. What’s happened to Hero Cop as a result of his actions? What about Partner and his family? How do the other cops try to help them cope?
There’s a reason this is seen as “Beat” Takeshi’s finest work: it’s an unusual film that tears your heart right out. You get it back by the end of course, but in slightly used condition.
Then you watch Kikujiro to lift your spirits a bit.