As sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara searches for his missing boss he comes across Ichi, a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kakihara has only dreamed of.
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When a Yakuza boss named Anjo disappears with 300 million yen, his chief henchman, a sadomasochistic man named Kakihara, and the rest of his mob goons go looking for him. After capturing and torturing a rival Yakuza member looking for answers, they soon realize they have the wrong man and begin looking for the man named Jijii who tipped them off in the first place. Soon enough Kakihara and his men encounter Ichi, a psychotic, sexually-repressed young man with amazing martial arts abilities and blades that come out of his shoes. One by one Ichi takes out members of the Yakuza and all the while Kakihara intensifies his pursuit of Ichi and Ichi's controller Jijii. What will happen as the final showdown happens between the tortured and ultra-violent Ichi and the pain-craving Kakihara? Written by
Genuinely disturbing and intensely shocking but very brilliant
Ichi the Killer is definitely not a film for people who have weak stomachs or who are easily offended. This film contains some of the most shocking images you'll ever see and includes some very disturbing characters that won't be forgotten in a hurry. It is always a very brave move for a film maker when they decide to adapt from a manga as manga often has aspects within it that can not be replicated in to a live picture. Takashi Miike makes the transition possible and blows away all walls of reality with an outstanding and totally unforgettable film.
The plot involves Yakuza boss Anjo going missing with a huge stash of cash, his gang members investigate and a classic game of cat and mouse is involved. This seems simple enough but what is out of the ordinary is that the leader of the investigation, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), is a major masochist and Anjo's killer, Ichi (Nao Omori) is the ultimate sadist with a tormented soul. This is where Ichi the Killer's shocking and graphic imagery really come in to force. Miike is uncompromising in his approach with regards to what he delivers on screen. There are no subtleties, no off camera goings on; it is all there for the audience to see, in full detail! The torture scenes, and their results, are especially horrific. If this film had been made in America or Europe, it would have been banned within a second of being made, it's that graphic. What disturbed me more than the disgusting imagery however, were the characters. Ichi's character I found genuinely terrifying as whilst he often comes across as a cartoonish character, there is a disturbingly real quality to his character. Ichi's childlike naivety draws many parallels to past psychotic killers that have existed in real life and his sexual excitement at causing pain and death is incredibly unsettling. Also unsettling is the character of Kakihara. His badly scarred face and clips either side of his lips immediately make him appear a scary figure and the only thing more disturbing than his pleasure for torturing others and watching their pain is his unparalleled love for being beaten and tortured himself.
What I like about many Asian films is that the acting is often very good and Ichi the Killer is no exception. Tadanobu Asano is brilliant as Kakihara. His performance is charismatic and terrifying, he does a great job of making the role his own. Nao Omori plays Ichi perfectly. The way that he can act tormented, childish and merciless all in one scene is incredible to watch and, as I said before, gives the film a genuinely disturbing edge rather than just immense gore. Alien Sun is very sexy as Karen and the way she speaks more than one language in an almost random fashion adds further mystery to this film. The fact that Karen is the only character who has Ichi's past explained to her from Jijii makes the audience able to empathise with her character more than anyone else. Shinya Tsukamoto is also very good as Jijii. His character is unravelled throughout the film and Tsukamoto is very convincing in his portrayal of what turns out to be a very complex character.
The purpose of this film is to shock and it achieves its goal to the point where you almost can not watch. With extremely graphic gore and some intense surrealist imagery that Salvador Dali himself would have been proud of, Ichi the Killer will never be forgotten and deserves to be watched by a lot more people (even if they can only watch it once!). Miike is very clever with his direction. The way he blends Kaneko's flash back sequences with the present does wonders to keep the audience's attention. The ending is also done with great style and is very effective in ending the film so it is down to interpretation of the audience.
Despite being very hard to palate, Ichi the Killer is a fantastic film. Directing, acting, writing and score are all spot on and the quality of the film is very good. Not a film I could handle watching too regularly but definitely a film I'll want to watch a few more times in the future.
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