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.
A yakuza enforcer is ordered to secretly drive his beloved colleague to be assassinated. But when the colleague unceremoniously disappears en route, the trip that follows is a twisted, surreal and horrifying experience.
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
Japan's Takashi Miike is a fan-favorite of American filmmakers Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth. I first came by Miike on the "Masters of Horror" TV show when he directed the segment called "Imprint." Last year, I came across Miike's infamous horror film "Audition," which is now considered one of my favorite and most shocking flicks in the genre.
Now I had the opportunity yesterday to watch 2001's "Ichi the Killer" with a friend.
Needless to a say, our opinions on the film were very different. He hated it. I really, really liked it. I saw it as something different from most crime thrillers. It had elements of horror, the crime thriller, and even some black comedy. I thought it was really cool. He saw it as basically two hours of non-stop torture, violence, rape, murder, and just overall insanity. Based on the Japanese Manga (comic book) by Hideo Yamamoto and set in Tokyo, Japan's, Shinjuku district, the plot concerns the search for the kidnapped boss of the Anjo Gang (who also disappeared with 300 million yen), which is apparently the most feared yakuza (Japanese mafia) gang in all of Tokyo. The body count rises steadily when the boss's chief henchman, the disfigured, pain-loving sadist Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), assigns himself the task of locating the Anjo Gang's beloved leader at any and all costs.
Kakihara is in no way a hero or anti-hero. This guy is a bad-a** gangster to the highest degree. He's also a pain junkie: He loves torturing people and actually gets off from watching other people in varying states of pain & suffering, from inflicting pain & suffering upon others, and also having pain & suffering inflicted upon himself by others. He's the true definition of a movie psychopath (he may even make Hannibal Lecter blush with envy). Upon being tipped off on the location of a possible culprit, Kakihara strings up the poor fellow by inserting hooks into his back and pouring hot grease all over his body; Kakihara loves every minute of this particularly nasty torture session.
Kakihara's search for answers in the kidnapping of his boss is set against the backdrop of the psychopathic vigilante/serial killer known only as Ichi (Nao Omori), a mentally disturbed, sexually repressed young man who is the pawn of an equally disturbed third individual who is using Ichi to systematically wipe out the yakuza members. Needless to say that when Ichi goes into one of his murderous frenzies, you just better have a barf bag ready.
Obviously, "Ichi the Killer" is not a movie for all tastes. I learned that when I watched this movie with my friend and our vastly different responses to it. "Ichi the Killer" is an even more sadistic film than Miike's previous "Audition." But while the violence and depravity in "Audition" was genuinely shocking and horrifying, the violence and depravity in "Ichi the Killer" ceases being shocking and horrifying after about the second bloodbath and slowly becomes hilarious - just think about how people walk around with gashes in their throats bleeding all over the place before finally succumbing to the blood loss or when Ichi is able to cut a man in half with the blades in his boots.
I'm sure I'm probably wrong about this, but I think I got this film's "message" about the evil that human beings are capable of inflicting upon each other and the almost-sexual gratification that people can sometimes get from it. When Ichi rescues a prostitute from her physically abusive pimp, she confesses that she loves being beaten up and that he will gladly give her what she desires. Kakihara and his "methods" of getting information on the whereabouts of his missing boss are also worthy of exhibiting this pain-loving stuff.
"Ichi the Killer" is not a perfect film, though. The plot tends to drag along somewhere in the third act and can try the patience of some viewers. This was probably one of the few things me and my friend agreed on when we watched it, that there were some things that we felt were unnecessary, regardless of how chaotic the movie was aiming to be. The over-the-top violence and sadism has made "Ichi the Killer" a cult film amongst the aficionados in Japan and across the world. This is not a film for all tastes and I would definitely not recommend it to those who don't have strong stomachs for senseless violence and depravity. But for a movie with senseless violence and depravity and those who have stomachs for it, look no further than "Ichi the Killer."
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