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Here's a sample of the first weekend's films:

September 26, 1997|JACK MATHEWS

"Hana-Bi" (unrated): Winner of the top prize at the recent Venice Film Festival, Takeshi Kitano's character study about a tough ex-cop with a soft heart is an almost poetic mix of violence and sentimentality. The film is laced with brutal beatings and killings and yet its overall impact is downright soothing. Takeshi, under his stage name Beat Kitano, plays the ex-cop Nishi with an emotional stoicism that gives him the look of a Japanese Dirty Harry. But behind the sunglasses and calm veneer is a troubled soul, an honest man robbing banks and taking on the Yakuza to help the most important people in his life--his paralyzed ex-partner (Ren Osugi), and his dying wife Tesuka (Tetsu Watanabe).

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