Ichi the Killer

03/12/2018 07:25

Film: Ichi the Killer

Year: 2001

Director: Takashi Miike

Writer: Sakichi Satô

Starring: Tadanobu Asano, Nao Ohmori and Shin’ya Tsukamoto



This is a film that I heard about long before I saw it. I wasn’t sure what it was all about and I know the first time that I saw it was at the Gateway Film Center on the big screen. It wasn’t until seeing it that I realized that the main character I kept seeing isn’t even the title character. This is just an odd film for sure. I’m updating this review with a second viewing as it is part of the Summer Challenge Series for the 2000s that I’m doing with The Podcast Under the Stairs, thanks to Duncan who is the host there. The synopsis is as sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) searches for his missing boss he comes come Ichi (Nao Ohmori), a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kikihara has only dreamed of achieving.

We start in a room full of body guards for a Yakuza boss by the name of Anjo. He is upstairs with a woman while these men are passing the time. One of them is a former cop, Kaneko (SABU) and he is concerned that they should be up closer to their boss. Another tells him not to worry about it.

We then shift to an apartment where a pimp is beating his prostitute. Watching through the window is Ichi. He learn that he’s turned on by what he’s seeing. It causes him to climax and nudges a pot in the process. This draws the attention of the pimp, but he only finds a puddle of semen.

Then it takes us to a group inside of a van. They are a cleaning crew that is led by Jijii (Shin’ya Tsukamoto). They go up to clean up a room that is covered in blood. The trio isn’t as shocked by what they see as I would assume someone would be. Regardless they get it spotless.

The bodyguards of Anjo are wondering what happened to their leader. One of them to note is Kakihara. He is an enforcer who is a sadomasochistic like the synopsis stated. He has an interesting look that is a take on the ‘Glasgow Smile’ and uses little rings to keep the cuts from staying completely open. Some of them think that their boss fled town with 3 million yen, but Kakihara isn’t so sure. He’s determined to find out what happened to Anjo with hopes he’s still alive.

He starts his search by going to a bar where he meets with a prostitute that was the boss’ girl, Karen (Paulyn Sun). She thinks he is dead or ran away with someone he was with while Kakihara tells her he thinks he has been kidnapped and they need to go find him. At another table is Jijii. Kakihara greets him and his crew as they’re outcasts of Anjo’s gang. He tells them that if they hear anything about his boss’ whereabouts to get in touch with him as he’ll make it worth their while.

Jijii does just that. He claims that another group of the Syndicate that is led by Suzuki (Susumu Terajima), might know where he is. He also believes that Suzuki is upset about getting cut out of a porn tape business previously as the motive. Kakihara takes the man and tortures him. It is during this that members of Jijii’s crew are watching what they are doing with microphones and a camera. Another boss busts in, Funaki (Jun Kunimura), while Jijii sneaks away.

We then see what happens with Ichi and the prostitute he watched from the balcony. He frequents her and promises that he will kill her pimp. All we really know about him is that he has a dream of a traumatic event from the past, but the more we learn, the more dangerous we see that Ichi is. He’s on a collision course with Kakihara who takes over Anjo’s gang, losing all of his protection in the process.

Now I had heard a lot about this film from those that are fans of Japanese cinema. I heard a lot about the director, Takashi Miike, through podcasts so it intrigued me to check this out. My first chance was when the 4K of this came out as like I said, the Gateway Film Center made an event out of it. It wasn’t until it started that I learned this film is based on a manga as well. This made a lot of sense as I was watching it. Some of the things that happen are definitely over the top and that seems to be bringing what was drawn to life.

I have to say that I really liked the concept of the story. There are two sides to the coin, but both are killers. Kakihara’s character is a sadomasochistic. He likes to torture those that he needs information from as it turns him on, but he also likes to be hurt himself. He’s also intrigued when he learns of the Ichi as he thinks he will experience pain beyond his comprehension. Even though he’s a criminal, I feel like Kakihara is kind of a twisted samurai that wants to meet his match in battle.

On the other side of the coin, Ichi is a repressed killer. He is manipulated into doing what he does. What is intriguing about it is that for whatever reason, he’s an amazing fighter. It is sad that Jijii is manipulating him through feeding him stories that Ichi’s demented mind processes as memories. I feel bad for what he’s dealing with. This manifests as well with sexual deviance and the inability to climax in a normal way. I love that both him and Kakihara are bad, but they are so in antihero ways as they’re flawed so you really have to decide who you want to side with. The ending was slightly confusing to me though if I’m going to be honest.

The acting in this film was great. The performance by Asano was great. I love the expressions he makes and just some of the things he says. I was really impressed by him. Ohmori does very well in his role also. I was confused by him at first, but as his past is revealed, it made complete sense. He does so well as this broken character that despite the killing he is doing, I feel bad as to why. I also really liked Tsukamoto as well. He seems like such a minor character at first, but more is revealed as events progress. He is very manipulative. I also felt bad for SABU. He is a former cop who was disgraced from the force for losing his gun. He is just out to prove himself with the Yakuza and to raise his kid. The problem though is his honor doesn’t translate well and those around him aren’t very nice. I thought the rest of the cast round out the film nicely as well.

I am torn about the effects of the film. Some of them are great and some of them I’m not a fan of. The torture scenes look so real. They had me cringing and I loved it. Some of them looked really bad though being done with CGI. I will try not to hold too much of this against the film, as the time period these were state of the art. They didn’t hold up too well in my eyes though. I will say that the cinematography is amazing though.

Next I’ll go over would be the editing which I thought was a little off. The version I saw was the director’s cut and it ran a little long for my liking. I just feel it had a bit of a pacing issue as the tension doesn’t build completely all the way through. There’s just too much filler for me and I wan in interest at times. It does get crazy for the climax so it does bounce back. The score of the film seemed to be non-existent for the most part. They do play the theme throughout the film and I did like that.

The last thing to go over would be the soundtrack. I’m not going to lie I’m a big fan here. The theme they use throughout which I dug. The other times we get these songs that are just odd sounding, but it worked for me. Not one of my favorite soundtracks that I’ll listen to while writing or anything, but it has it moments for sure.

Overall though, this is a good film. If you are into over the top, bloody films, then I’d give this one a viewing. The concept of the film is interesting and it has you picking sides between two groups of criminals. The acting across the board was really good. The effects of the film are hit or miss. Some are great while others are not so much. The editing does have some issues as well and the soundtrack works for what was needed. This film is from Japan and I had to watch it with subtitles on. If that is an issue, then I’d avoid this, but the DVD I picked up did have a dubbed version so there’s that. If not and you want to see a brutal revenge film, I’d recommend giving this one a viewing for sure.


My Rating: 8 out of 10