Ichi the Killer (2001)
(aka Kororshiya Ichi)
Director: Takashi Miike
128 min
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Sabu, Alien Sun, Shinya Tsukamoto, Nao Omori.

Ichi (Nao Omori) is one fucked up guy.  He gets off on violence, thinks that beating the shit out of someone is a sign of love and cries when he does commit acts of anti-social behaviour.  He is also an assassin programmed by Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto – acclaimed director of the Tetsuo movies and Tokyo Fist).  One of his latest jobs was to kill Yakuza gang lord Anjo, which he does in his unique bloody style. Anjos second in command, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) is heartbroken because Anjo was more than his boss he was his sadist who fulfilled his masochistic tendencies.  He now wants to find his bosses’ killer. Meanwhile, Ichi is being programmed to kill the rest of the gang including Kakihara.  However Kakihara believes that Ichi could be a suitable replacement for his deceased boss.  Pain, suffering and death ensue.  But for who?

Now I’ll probably get hate mail for writing this but I think it has to be said.  This isn’t the greatest film in the world.  If it wasn’t for all the media hyperbole surrounding the three minutes or so of cuts that the film suffered at the hands of the BBFC then Ichi wouldn’t have been as infamous as it is.  Needless to say that the old adage about any publicity is good publicity is exemplified here in all its glory.

However it isn’t the blood bath that a lot of reviews have made it out to be.  There has been and will be bloodier.  What they are going on about is the scenes of sado-masochism that proliferate and a few scenes of sexualised violence against women.  In this day and age where everything has been done to death and the audience becomes less shockable, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that filmmakers are going to push the envelope.  They want to cause a reaction.  So these scenes that caused such uproar were inevitable.  And I should be allowed the choice to view these scenes and not have someone else decide for me.  I don’t think I’m sick when I say that I want to see all that Takashi Miike puts on the screen.  I know my limit; I know when to switch off.  Some of the stuff in this film made me feel uncomfortable.  That was my decision.  It’s what I wanted and I’m damn sure Miike was looking for that response when he was filming it.  And for chrissakes sex and violence go hand in hand like Laurel and Hardy, bacon and eggs, Butch and Sundance.

Of course some people can’t get past the “blood and sex and violence” and see that there is more going on here other than people raping, killing and puncturing each other. This movie could be seen as a thesis on love and relationships, looking for the perfect partner in contemporary society. The thing is most audiences are too lazy to even try and look beneath the surface.  The critics are the same (except Tom Mes, whose book on Takashi Miike, Agitator is an essential purchase) they just focus on the exploitational aspects.  It’s easy, hell; this review is mostly about the sex and violence.  What I’m trying to get at is; Miike doesn’t just make exploitation movies.  That is his mode of attack to tell us something.  He knows sex sells, he knows violence sells.  He wants people to see his films, so he gives them what they want. If they get the underlying message then that’s a bonus.  He has admitted that he is a director for hire, if he thinks he can do something with the material then he’ll do it.  That is why he is so prolific.  He has things to say.  Ok enough of the serious shit

Based as it is on a manga it has been shot with a comic book sensibility that lightens the mood of the piece and just about takes the edge off the rawness of the entire movie.  Also it’s quite funny, in a very black comedic way (hey maybe it’s just me).  The low budget does shine through at times; some of the CGI is a bit naff to say the least.  However there is still a hard edge to the film, an uncomfortableness that’s hard to shake after watching it.

To continue the manga/comic book theme and for those who can’t get enough of Ichi you should check out the Ichi the Killer anime.  This is a 40 odd minute prequel that explains how Ichi became the model citizen that he is today.  It has more violence in its short running time than the live action film has in its entirety.  As an added bonus Takashi Miike provides one of the voices.  A perfect compliment and sick nights entertainment (I think!)

Available in my country in many shapes and sizes you will have to do some detective work to find the best DVD for you.  It has to be said that the British release has a load of extras but I don’t know if that makes up for the butchering of the film (remember three minutes have been excised).

Review By Martainn Russell.
© Owned Martainn Russell   31/12/2004 18:58

email:-  giovannip@pistachio-films.com

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