This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
It has been said that Western art is the art of putting in, and Eastern art is the art of leaving out. The new Japanese film "Fireworks" is like a Charles Bronson "Death Wish" movie so drained of story, cliche, convention and plot that nothing is left, except pure form and impulse. Not a frame, not a word, is excess. Takeshi Kitano, who made it, must be very serene or very angry; only extreme states allow such a narrow focus.
Kitano, who wrote, directed and edited the film, also stars as Nishi, a man whose only two emotional states are agony and ecstasy. As the film opens, he is a policeman whose young daughter died not long ago; now his wife is dying of leukemia. During a stakeout, his partner Horibe (Ron Osugi) suggests he go visit his wife in the hospital. He does, and while he is gone, another cop is killed and Horibe is so badly wounded that he will have to spend his life in a wheelchair.
A cop movie would have dwelled on the action. "Fireworks" reveals what happened only gradually, and at first we even misunderstand the source of the bullets. The movie is not about action, but about consequences and states of mind. Nishi leaves the police force, and we learn, abruptly, that he is deep in debt to Yakuza loan sharks. How? Why? Unimportant. All of those scenes that other films find so urgent are swept away here. When punk Yakuza collectors arrive in a noodle shop to try to get money from Nishi, he stabs one in the eyeball with a chopstick, so suddenly and in a shot so brief that we can hardly believe our eyes.
Nishi cares deeply for his wife, Miyuki (Kayoko Kishimoto), and wants to spend time with her. He robs a bank to raise the necessary cash. They do childish things together, such as playing with the kite of a girl they meet on the beach. Sometimes they dissolve in laughter. But when a stranger laughs at Miyuki for trying to water dead flowers, Nishi brutally beats him. And when more collectors arrive from the Yakuza, Nishi explodes again.