Izo (2004) Poster


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THE most bizarre movie I have ever seen
manicsounds23 August 2004
I've seen my share of Lynch, Cronenberg, Tsukamoto, and other Miike films in the past, and I must say for a fact that IZO beats everything else currently out there for extreme bizarreness.

After watching the film for 2 hours, there was still a lot of head scratching from the audience leaving the theater. What did it mean? What exactly happened? What was the purpose? But do you expect any less from Takashi Miike?

As what I gathered, an assassin named IZO is crucified as punishment, from what we don't know, probably a few hundred years ago. His punishment instead goes beyond multiple spearings through his body, but eternal damnation of life, where time, space, and dimension are not clear.

It seems IZO has the capability of traveling through random times and space, but randomly out of nowhere. He kills whoever may be in his path, as they are trying to kill him. The purpose of his eternal damnation is not truly clear and he seeks on a Reason. A Reason in a place where Reason doesn't exist.

Add to the package a Huge body count (not as bloody as you would expect actually), some sex, samurai and cartoonish violence, random old stock footage, zombies, a randomly appearing folk singer giving metaphoric songs on occasion, snakes, caterpillars, and birth itself, it is one unique picture.

Did I get it? Nope. Did I enjoy it? I think I did. A second viewing is what I must give it eventually. 8/10
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God, Family, Sex, Murder, Friend, Foe, War, Nation, Government, Law, Ethics
genghis_khan24 June 2005
I was expecting a samurai film, I couldn't have been wronger. It is hard to explain "Izo" with just words, even if I could I don't think it would cover all the things this film has to say.

Before explaining the story of this film I think it is essential to talk about the visual aspect of it. "Izo" looks like another experimental film from the director Takashi Miike, lots of unorthodox camera shots and visual story telling. Acting feels very theatrical... in a Japanese way. There is no stopping in this film, it is a fast ride from start to the end and you have to catch up with it.

As for the story, Izo is the main character in this, a samurai from feudal Japan who apparently had a lot of drama in his life. After his death his tortured soul wanders around modern and old Japan, endlessly taking lives. He denies the existence of God, faces old foes, those who hold grudge against him, sleeps with his mom and kills her, he sees women he had been with, kills them, kills lots of women, kills lots of everything actually. And the whole Japan -modern and old- wants to stop this guy, he is seen as a menace to the system, he doesn't belong to the system. And he travels back and forth in time, fighting and killing everyone that gets in his way, slowly turning into a demon.

There is a lot of defiance in "Izo", against everything human civilization stands for. Its purpose apparently is to question that which made us what we are. Where does religion, law, ethics come from? And it has a very nihilist answer to all of it. While watching this I felt a lot of mythology in it, feels like a Greek or a Persian tragedy.

What I've written might sound non-sense if you haven't yet seen this and have no idea what it is like but this is as much as I can do to explain this film. I think that's what makes good art: It speaks for itself...
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A slice, a groan, a war-cry, and a folk ballad
musashi_8825 April 2005
The latest chapter in Takeshi Miike's continuing essay on humanity and brutality, IZO is a two-hour experimental mind-trip.

If this film were in any way concerned with making sense, the storyline might resemble something like this: A man is brutally murdered in ancient Japan, but, bearing his vengeance, he returns to the Earth and wanders uncontrollably through time and space, becoming the embodiment of mankind's self-destructive nature. Throughout his wanderings, he encounters all kinds of strange and metaphoric characters, and he proceeds to kill them all with his samurai sword.

This film is an elaborate thesis on mankind, but the exact nature of the message is a matter of debate, as is whether or not Takeshi Miike himself even has a clue. There will no doubt be differing opinions as to what the characters represent, but you better make up your mind during the first hour of film. After that, most of the scenes that obviously point out a social message - like black-and-white footage of war - disappear, and what the resolution is depends on your interpretation of the characters.

For those of you not familiar with the works of Takeshi Miike, suffice it to say that he is determined to mine the human subconscious in search of new and exciting ways to make people throw up sushi and tempura on the carpeted floors of Tokyo multiplexes. Among Japan's pantheon of ultra-violent directors, he is notable for being always ready to address the issue of his own sadism. Ever film he makes is like an expansion of Hitchcock's shower scene, forcibly accusing us of being sadists at the same time as he delivers great images of cinematic violence. More than the social commentary, which is confusing and likely uncertain, the most interesting philosophical study in IZO is Miike's self-examination of his own lust for violence, as well as the main character's and the audience's. Is Izo so brutal because he is inhuman, or because he is too human?

You may not get anything from straining at this befuddled movie, but it is still enjoyable and provoking, if not gut-wrenching, experimental cinema. Any violent philosophical essay that features long shots of a folk singer playing guitar and screaming ballads is worth a look. IZO has elements of Kafka, Lewis Carrol, Terry Gilliam, and Seijun Suzuki, but it is undeniably Takeshi Miike.

You can call Miike sadistic. You can call him demented or depraved. Just don't forget to call him an artist.
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Pretentious? Maybe... So What?
hokeybutt23 August 2005
IZO (4+ outta 5 stars) Well, this movie gets only 2 kinds of ratings... either really low or really high. There's no way around it... you will have to see it for yourself to figure out which it deserves. I found the movie a bit confounding at first... but it definitely makes more sense after a second and third viewing. There really isn't much of a plot. Izo, a dead warrior, is flung arbitrarily through time. He kills everyone he comes into contact with... good, bad, he makes no distinctions. The movie is director Takashi Miike's attempt at some kind of philosophical dissertation on violence and religion. Pretentious? Well, of course! When you get right down to it, ALL philosophy is pretentious! But, is the movie entertaining? Yes. Does it provoke thought? Yes. (Even if most people's thoughts will be along the lines of "What the f*** is going on???") Imaginatively-staged action sequences are piled on non-stop, one after the other. Occasionally the action stops for some rousing acoustic guitar and wild folk-singing from Kazuki Tomakawa... who will either have you covering your ears or desperately searching for his records online. Extremely violent movie, very powerful at times ... similar in style to Jodorowsky's "El Topo". If you think you will like this movie based on the descriptions you read, you probably will. If you think it sounds like boring twaddle... well, you better go watch something else.
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A philosophical journey or the soul or utter clap trap- talk about mileage varying
dbborroughs2 March 2005
This review will probably not help anyone and only confuse matters, but its the only way I can explain it.

You will either find this to be a philosophical tour de force or you will find it a load of dingos kidneys. You will either sit in rapt attention of storm off wondering how stupid you were to spend money on it.

Its that sort of a movie and then some.

The film effectively begins as Izo is crucified and speared to death(?) and then for the next two hours he runs around killing people and being or being the subject of "deep" discussions in various times and places. How you react to this film will be your tolerance for blood, gore, pretentious twaddle, real philosophy, deadly seriousness, and knowing silliness.

A cosmic comic blood bath journey of a soul in the afterlife? Who knows? I'm convinced that this is the film that Takashi Miike intended to make and that he is both very serious about what it says and having a laugh at the expense of everyone who sees it. (The problem is he's not giving many clues as to what he's trying to say)

Think of it as Jodorowsky's El Topo combined with his Holy Mountain, then turned into a time traveling samurai flick as filtered through the mind of a genius prankster.

If you love film, especially film that is so off the beaten track as to be in a universe three doors down see this film. If you love the potential for a film of ideas, but with lots of blood thrown in see this film.

If you're looking for a normal linear film with no heavy ideas stay away. (Miles away)

I think its a brilliant, but too long (by half an hour) mind trip. I have no idea what it all means but it was interesting seeing the sites.
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Perhaps the closest you'll ever come to seeing Miike's socio-political views
xiria7311 June 2007
After owning this film for nearly a year, I finally found the opportunity to watch it without my girlfriend being in the same room with me (She couldn't get past Kazuki Tomokawa's first ballad). Did it help with my viewing enjoyment? That would be a definite yes. Did it help me gain a better understanding of the story?

That's a very good question...

I view Izo as Miike's personal views of what Society has become. Facets of every class, organization and subculture within has grown apathetic, and there seems to be no hope. Izo is the manifestation of a great anger, given birth by a world that he realizes is no longer in need of his services. Upon his death Izo is forever damned to travel the Earth, constantly dragged through space and time and forced to face either those who are out to destroy him or those who, like him, are seeking answers to questions which can rarely be answered. In the rare instance an answer is available, sometimes it's not the one we want to hear. Even if the answer in inevitable, it does not matter. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to anything that happens in the world, and Izo is filled with such rage over being betrayed and cast away, that the line between logic and irrationality becomes blurred. In the end everyone's a victim, yet they're all guilty in some shape or form. Izo is forced to face that realization for all eternity, which may make some viewers debate over who the true protagonist of the movie is-Izo or the World (The answer should be obvious, but...).

Most people I've spoken to say they could not "get into" this film. Every one I've spoken to have compared it to Koroshiya 1 or Odishon, which is a mistake. This is not a film about the Yakuza, and it certainly is not a movie that makes Fatal Attraction look like Sixteen Candles. This is a political film; a piece of bloody eye candy with a congealed shell, but political nonetheless. Still, it's definitely worth watching. Make no mistake, this is still "A Takashi Miike Film". All the trademarks that accompany the bulk of his work are present. If you've seen enough of his films (Or at least one), you won't be disappointed. Just don't read too much into it. Try to enjoy it for the great piece of work it is.

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Miike goes political (again)
DeadlyOutlawREKKA31 October 2004
I will be starting this review by saying that this is an EXCELLENT movie.

Miike, THE Auteur of the 21st century, is producing films at such an alarming rate that its almost impossible to keep up with the man. Yet he manages to keep producing films of an extremely high standard AND creating different and interesting techniques. Izo is another fine example of this.

The broken structure is far more complex than Nolan's 'Memento' and far more effective as it allows you to experience the agony that Izo is constantly feeling.

The constant metaphors that keep popping up throughout the non-stop carnage bring more layers to the film than any 'shock' movie yet Miike still manages to throw in a few gallons of blood and a very interesting place to hide a sword (ladies) for good measure.

So in summary a very poignant anti-war piece with some fine visual styles and some very brutal action. And a great guitarist.

Go see. And take the whole family.

Cinema at its best.
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bigfanofthebob428 March 2006
Izo is the sort of movie-thing that straddles the line between awesomeness, pretentiousness, and an as of yet unidentified third sector that cannot be described with human language.

So this time-traveling samurai dude kills a ton of people, and along the way this other dude sings nonsensical things for ten minutes at a time while sounding like he's just eaten a cat who was itself gargling nails. There's also some possibly gratuitous nudity and some certainly gratuitous scenes of swords appearing from places where they should probably not appear from.

I only have about half of an idea what Izo is about, but I think it means that Takashi Miike hates everything except slimy grown men being forced out of tiny female orifices at the ends of movies. And personally, I love him for it.
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Art at its bloodiest
sarastro71 May 2005
This is Izo:

Izo is about a character who represents the unacceptable in society. The good and the bad parts simultaneously: He is the progressive spirit that rains righteous wrath upon the corruption in religion, government and the world of finance, freeing man from oppressive rulers. And he is the barbarism of which the human animal is capable when running unchecked and uncontrolled; unrestrained. He represents these aspects of the human spirit up through history, and must finally end his existence when man has attained the purity to cast off oppression for good and eradicate his own barbaric tendencies through moral discipline and self-control. Izo is humanity's anger, righteous and frustrated; resolute and indignant, leading us towards utopia while cutting a swath through the sadly ignorant masses that would oppose him.

Izo is a movie loaded with symbolism, and every drop of blood is artistically justified. Even so, it is nowhere near as clear as it could have been, and the entertainment value is merely so-so. Generally a cool movie, not overly pleasant, but certainly a radical artistic statement of solid integrity.

My rating: 8 out of 10.
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Too long, too sloppy, but worth seeing once
trippycheez11 April 2005
The Philadelphia Film Fest program guide described the plot of IZO as such:

"A samurai travels through time with just one goal: to kill every single human on the planet."

That basically sums it up. A man takes a sword and hacks away at nearly all the people he comes in contact with. He stabs a military general to death with the help of some zombie soldiers. He slices his own mother's body in half from the waist down. He kills some kids, he kills some businessmen, and he kills a real estate agent who turns out to be a vampiric demon. When he kills infinity (yes, infinity ITSELF, not an infinite number of people) and the movie STILL doesn't end, things start to get a little tedious.

Knowing Miike, you'd be right to expect some outlandish violence, a high body count, and perhaps a mind-boggling plot from all of this. What you might not anticipate is a lot of philosophical mumbo jumbo, World War II stock footage played backwards and forwards, and a guitar player who appears every so often to sing throatily about elephants and flowers. (At one point the camera lingers on this guitarist's face for a full SEVEN MINUTES or so without any cuts or camera movement.)

Though I think I may have liked Izo, I have many criticisms.

First of all, for a film about sword-fighting, IZO lacks both the beauty of HERO and the direct outrageousness of KILL BILL. Quite simply, the fights were poorly choreographed and involved too many cheesy stunts. Izo flies over his enemies a few times, just like the characters in CROUCHING TIGER flew, only less elegantly. Izo dodges a bullet in slow motion just like Neo did in the MATRIX. The sound of a heart beating played over fade-ins and fade-outs just like it does in every made-for-TV horror flick in existence. During the rare times when Miike WASN'T deploying effects that have already been clichéd for years, each sequence seemed to go like this:

1. Close up of Izo's face 2. Close up of other guy's face 3. Shot from behind other guy as Izo hits him in the stomach with sword 4. Close up of other guy falling down

For the first ten minutes I didn't mind the lack of special effects or variety, but once I realized that there wouldn't be any progression and that the film would go on like this for a full two hours, I began to feel rather antsy.

The repetitive fight scenes could have been alleviated by some decent cinematography. If you can't give me an engaging plot, at LEAST give me something interesting to look at! But no. The whole movie had a very sloppy vibe, as though it had been rushed through production. Many of the shots seemed haphazardly composed or not composed at all, like arbitrary shots of tree branches and jittery hand-held action footage. Indoor shots were often over-exposed by light coming in from the windows but otherwise under-exposed. I sometimes had the sensation that brief flashes of stock footage were inserted to make up for gaps in continuity. Also, it could be that I saw a worn print, but the first half of the movie had a very brown, drab feel. Perhaps some sharp color could have livened things up.

So yes, the movie was boring, ugly and maybe an EL TOPO rip-off, but somehow I thought it was good anyway. Part of my positive opinion stems from the fact that I admire any director who has a dream and achieves it, no matter how wrong they may be to do so. Also, intellectually, this IS a very engaging film. Since Izo is so unrealistic as a character, the viewer is practically forced to understand his journey as an allegory. In my opinion, Izo represents the grudge mentality: when someone hurts him, or acts like they want to hurt him, he always reacts swiftly and lethally. When a person ignores him or approaches him in kindness (like the schoolteacher, a few of the women, or the children of the future who have learned that nations do not really exist), he lets them pass without harm. His general aim is to destroy anyone who claims to have more power than he does, including the Prime Minister and God. Through juxtapositions with World War II footage, we see that Izo's attitude is linked with Japan's stance during World War II: surrender is dishonorable, but by not surrendering, one is only asking for more violence. In order to stop war, one must cease to threaten it, thereby undercutting the formation of a grudge.

While watching IZO, I felt like I would understand the details better if I were more familiar with Japanese traditions and culture. My feeling was correct. After probing around the internet, I learned that Izo was a true historical figure, a samurai-turned-homicidal maniac. I also learned that the unusual style of music played by the guitarist (fanciful lyrics, anguished voice) is a distinctive Japanese genre that emerged after World War II in response to all the suffering.

Still, I would not recommend IZO lightly, not even to Miike fans. I'm not sure if the film is brilliant or terrible, but overall... life is short and IZO is long. Watch it only if you have the time or patience for such an undertaking.
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Bizarre, Absurd, Surreal -- Breathlessly Inspiring and Unique
gavin69424 November 2007
In the distant past, a great samurai warrior named Izo was put to death in a most heinous manner. But his spirit does not rest, and he now wanders the earth, traveling through time, killing (almost) every living thing he comes across. While most of this film is just pure slaughter (which many fans will enjoy), watch for the deeper messages and symbolism.

The acting all around was wonderful. As usual, unless you're a big fan of Japanese cinema, you'll probably only recognize Takeshi Kitano. This makes it far easier for me to comment on the acting, not having to make running jokes on an actor's past career. Takeshi is pretty much flawless in his film choices, so you should already know this will be good when you see his name (not to mention it's a Takeshi Miike film, which is great).

My expectations for this film were mixed. As stated, Miike and Kitano are a great pair, but I was told this was something of an action film and less of a horror film. And I suppose that's true, although horror fans are going to get more than their share of blood and questionable perversity (incest, anyone?). I came out liking this film a lot more than I had thought I would, thinking there's no way it could out-do "Visitor Q" or even "Audition". But I think it very well may have.

The blood is what's going to attract most people. Izo kills school children, an old warrior with a voice box, businessmen and everyone else. It sprays a lot, and the swordplay is enjoyable. The variety of things killed makes up for the fact that the plot doesn't really have much to offer (besides countless stabbings, slashings and beheadings).

What hooked me was the philosophy and symbolism. We have Izo, who is consumed with rage, slowly turning into a demon as he kills (what appears to be a Japanese oni, though my grasp of Japanese mythology is limited). We have a troubadour who follows him around singing songs (some of them up to seven minutes in length). Is he the narrator, or Izo's soul crying out? We have the snake creature, the mother of all humanity and a board of directors for some big corporation. And, most interestingly, a teacher teaching students about "democracy" and what a "nation" is in the most abstract of terms. Like what John Searle or Richard Rorty would say. And if Izo is killing everyone, we are left to wonder why there remain a few -- very few -- people he leaves alive.

Come for the blood and stay for the symbols. You'll need to watch this one two or three times to really begin to understand and appreciate it. In all fairness, it may be boring for some people (how many times can you stab someone) but I think it's art in the purest, most animalistic of forms. You like "Audition" or "Ichi the Killer"? Give this one a shot.
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Very Symbolic
TheEnigmaticRonin10 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Only Takashi Miike could make a film like that. This movie is very symbolic, and bizarre. Izo is story about an evil spirit, who once was an assassin, who travel trough time and realms, to avenge his death. Miike have expressed his feelings in a very unnatural way. The question is what is "Izo"?, there are many answers to the question, my personal opinion is that, Izo is the Japanese part of the second world war, and japan in war situation trough the history, and the cruelty of the human nature, he is the dark side of every person. Miike show you clues pretty clear in the movie. When he kills his first victim he ask him, are you so brutal because you are human or human because you are brutal?(cruelty of the human nature). He shows also how religion can be misused, in personal interest and how hypocritical it can be. In the scene where he kills his own mother is also an symbolic example, his mother says "killing me is like killing yourself Izo", when a population corrupts and destroy there country they destroy there own system...they destroy themselves. The whole thing start to make sense if we relate it to the second world war. In the beginning Izo looks like an ordinary person ,cool, but later on he becomes more fierce, he even kills children and innocent people, civilian people are those who suffer the most in a war. With other words the war from the Japanese side didn't look like bad thing, but later on they saw the cruelty of the war. In the end Izo do look like a monster, with a mask, evolution... changes of war how it changes in a negative way, mask is an accessory, just like the army used armored weapon in later wars.

Izo is brilliant movie, I'm not saying that everyone going to like it, because entertainment for everyone does not exist. A must for Miike fans ;)
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Miike's best film
polysicsarebest26 March 2008
It's hard to be familiar with the movies of Takashi Miike. Despite seeing the majority of his films released in America (and even a few that have yet to be released here...), it's hard not to feel like I've lost something in translation. I can appreciate the humor, the violence, the plots, etc... but there are usually parts that seem to lose me, and his movies typically require repeated viewings. It's not that I'm particularly new to the films he creates or the films of Japanese directors in general -- the point I'm trying to illustrate is that you have to WANT to appreciate his films. You have to work hard sometimes to get into what he's doing, because he often throws conventional plot points, "hooks" that grab you, and structure, out the window. Even his most fairly straightforward films take many detours into the bizarre (see the tank randomly showing up in "Family" or the rocket launcher that comes out on nowhere in at least two of his films!).

So, it's not surprising that this is one of Miike's works that hasn't gotten quite the attention of the immediately-gratifying "Ichi the Killer" or "Audition". Using the "hook" of a sword fighting epic initially gets people interested in this film, but seeing no conventional plot line or point to what is happening turns most people off, it seems. This confuses me -- though I definitely didn't grasp everything upon the first viewing of this, I was still instantly amazed at what Miike has set up here: A journey through one man's tortured soul. Even if you don't feel like you understand everything that's happening, you still realize this film is genius -- maybe you just haven't figured out why yet.

Upon repeated viewings, however, I figured out why. You have to kind of look in between the lines on this one. This film is powerful, epic, emotional, and even darkly comedic. Yes, on the surface this film is basically just a journey through someone's afterlife. However, beyond that, the film pours on the flashy imagery, ultraviolence, and powerful emotions to an almost suffocating degree. In a lot of ways, this film reminds me of "El Topo" -- a movie that is disguised as a genre effort (El Topo being a Western, this being a samurai swordfighting film) that uses the basic genre outlines but explores topics deeper than have ever been covered in the genre before...

I think those who overlook this film simply were expecting a straightforward swordfighting movie, which this film clearly isn't. It's way better than that, and it's honestly probably the best film to come out in the last decade. It's one of the few films that have ever "moved" me. It is somewhat challenging cinema, and you might need a decent background in Japanese culture/mysticism/forces to totally understand everything in this movie. Unfortunately, most people won't bother. But for those who like to think a little bit, remember that this film REQUIRES repeated viewings.

A masterpiece and easily proves Miike's talent more so than any of his other films so far.
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"He thinks he can find answers by asking questions! Let's laugh at him!"
Jacques9828 September 2008
First and foremost, the only reason I didn't give Izo a perfect or near perfect score is because of the production value. To be blunt, the production value in the first hour is hideous, but it gets a little better as the film goes on. The story itself is pretty amazing, intelligent, but not necessarily original or as weird as people are saying when you understand it. More on that in a moment.

I'm sick of movies (such as Donnie Darko and Oldboy) that think they're so utterly intelligent when in reality they just rehash old clichés that have been done in movies exactly just like them time and time again. To say it's been a while since I've seen a movie that was actually as intelligent as it thinks it is an understatement. Izo, to my surprise, actually had something somewhat new and practical to say and was never pretentious about it. One of the best lines of the movie is, "He thinks he can find answers by just asking questions! Let's laugh at him!" which can be interpreted as Miike telling the audience he's not the egotistical moron like the other "intelligent" wannabe directors.

Izo, for people who are having a hard time understanding, is a straightforward journey of a dead man's soul questioning everything that brought us as a society to the place we are. Family, sex, love, God, patriotism, government—Miike questions it all, and really leaves the answer up to the viewer. In a way, it almost reminded me of that biblical Proverb that claims everything under the sun is meaningless. In another way, it reminded me of a Greek morality play. Still, despite the things it reminded me of, it was never once just the same old questions you've always heard—they're presented in new, cool, modern ways.

But before you start thinking Izo is just filmed literature, Miike ties all this together with an insane bloody body count. There is very little graphic gore, but there is a lot of blood splatter and kills that kept me interested through the entire movie. Even then, Miike backs up the killing with the statement: "History is built on bloody events, so why wouldn't I kill to find answers?" It has a really cool pulp literary feel that pleases both the 12-year-old boy who likes blood and action and pleases the old man who likes deep thoughts. What more could you ask from a film like this? Overall, Izo is a must see if you consider yourself an intellectual person or if you consider yourself a fan of hardcore violence. It's not run-of-the-mill in any way shape or form, and borders on originality through the entire movie. If only there was better production value . . .

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angrymidget1930 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The film starts out with diagrams of the human penis. Then it moves on to war pictures and film clips, explosions, bombs dropping, and random acts of violence. About 30 seconds into this, is a film clip of some teacup ride at some crappy amusement park, then EXPLOSION! Back to the war clips. After a while, it goes to a samurai (IZO) getting speared to death while being crucified. IZO then comes back to life (though years later in the movie) and starts killing everyone.

This is a totally fantastic movie! It's got a really deep plot (if you want that sort of thing), but it's easy to ignore, so if you just want random violence then sit back, ignore the dialog and focus on the 100+ murders that occur in this movie.

IZO has everything, including a part where IZO is sucked into a lake, and somehow appears at a wedding, so what does he do? He STABS the groom, then slaughters the bride! He then jumps through a wall, but travels through some kind of portal into a classroom. He awkwardly walks out, and is confronted by dozens of ****heads in the halls. Needless to say, they are promptly murdered.

Also, IZO kills some monks, vampires, businessmen, vampire businessmen (I'm not making this up) gangsters, goons, and random people in the middle of a highway (he somehow traveled through time, or to a parallel world or some damn thing.) Long story short, IZO rules. It owns your soul.
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Izo is Miike's ultimate statement on death and rebirth.
Kordermamet2320 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
As much as it is about politics (anarchy, rebellion, the lies of nationhood and imperialism, etc.), Izo also contains the key to Miike's personal creative philosophy. Consider that Miike is probably one of the most prolific filmmaker's of all time. It has been said by other critics that he is more in love with the process of making movies, than having made movies. Many filmmakers I have worked with seem to prefer having made the movies--having that list of accomplishments to look back on, to show others, to impress people with. I think Miike strives for continual rebirth through his work, much like Izo strives for transformation through the act of nonstop destruction and homicide. Izo's transformation is one from apparent humanity to inhumanity--a fanged, drooling, screaming, red eyed demon. When Izo runs the treadmill of infinity in this film he is struggling to break free of the cycle of death and rebirth that ensnares humanity. Only Miike would boldly portray a man of incredible violence and ruthlessness as having what it takes to burst through all of that to a final confrontation with a powerful being that may be God itself. I prefer to think of Miike this way, a maniac railing against all things--nationhood, conformity, morality, ethics, religious authorities, military authorities, sexuality, family, the workplace, and , in this movie at long last, against God itself. For those of you who have seen this movie, I urge you to compare Izo with Ichi from Ichi the Killer, and Izo's ultimate rebirth with similar imagery from Gozu. I would suggest that the fate of the protagonist of Audition is also a form of rebirth. Izo is a stunning testament to the power of sheer determination, guts, and the willingness to battle all foes, be they God or less, which drives so singular and inspirational an artist as Takashi Miike.
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When reason fails to explain...
petitpoisbleu22 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
OK, juts like others said, this movie is really hard to categorize or even to explain. But could this really be bad? When you first watch Izo, you really wander who's who and what is happening. Just relax and stay calm. It's kinda like going on a movie ride with Nietzsche and some LSD. Izo, to my sens, is a nihilist tale of a guy loosing is humanity has he goes against everything that makes humankind civilized. He slashes through religion, political powers and so on until nothing is left but himself. It's a philosophical essay drawn on a samurai flick background. If you're looking for something like "Lone wolf and Cub" or "Samurai Reincarnation", you're in for a disappointment. Even though the movie contains some great fighting scenes, they seemed to me more like a symbols, a way for Izo to scream is rage and is rebellion against humanity. Has the movie goes, you even see Izo loosing is facial trait to become more and more inhuman...a monster of some kind. Monster because he is leaving all social convention behind and refusing to submit himself to any kind of structure. No powers are legitimate to him, but is own free, untamed will. Has I said earlier, try to see it like a Nietzsche statement about how fake and hypocrite our whole society is. About how we live in a lie that we take for a fundamental truth and how easily it would all crumble if we only free our will and mind. Chronologicly, the movie is also hard to get at first. My opinion about the period jumping back and forth is simply a statement about how society is always structured the same way. Based on lies and power, human power. And only our eternal submission to those powers confers them the power to rule our body and mind. Izo takes all that away, casting humanity (even his) away for pure free untamed willpower. So if you sit for the Izo ride, make sure you bring an open mind and not your grand mother. This is one movie you won't forget, even if you hate the hell out of it...
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A very abstract film with multiple interpretations
padiyark26 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Takashi Miike is really a paradox; he can be right in your face and at the same time be pensive. "Izo" is perhaps most representative of this paradox. No doubt, "Izo" is extremely violent and brutal, yet one sees a message lurking in the blood. I have read multiple interpretations on this film, and I myself see it as a "search for God" and humanity getting in the way of it. Others have seen it as an anti-war film. You may find a completely different interpretation. In these multiple interpretations lies the brilliance of the film. You must also watch the movie in a very abstract level, as opposed to the "standard" plot, with the characters and places as symbols. Those who are used to the dark humor and inventive violence of Miike's previous films like "Audition" and "Ichi the Killer" won't find it here--the violence is pretty straight forward (but still graphic), and there is no humor here. Miike probably made his most serious film to date with this film.
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Intriguing but nearly unwatchable
kinaidos31 May 2005
This film is intriguing, but it's also a mess. After the first hour the random violence ceases to do much of anything but bore. The shell of a plot introduced by the modern characters is so shallow that it doesn't convincingly shape the narrative. There is not a single character in the film that one can connect with. Finally the melange of montage sequences are so random that they merely annoy. This film feels like a very bad attempt to make an overly serious film by a mediocre film student. It was extremely disappointing. The point of the film seems to have been to portray something of the relationship between the social order and violence, but that point is so trite at this point in history that it simply does not warrant over two hours of random violence, arbitrary montage, and a bunch of bogus depth psychology.
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Good concept stretched to the limits of endurance
ania_helenka31 October 2004
Wasted potential. Or rather, all the ingredients for a great experimental film were there but sadly the director got carried away and overdid it. Looking past the blood & gore I found the film Jungian really - an exploration of the id and ego, chaos and order - you name it. But this could have been achieved with 50 minutes less footage. As things are the film bogs down and becomes repetitive. Tedious in the end. The shock value wears thin, there's little more to say and the singing - after an hour or so I've come to dread the sound of the guitar - it ceased to be punctuation of the piece and became a right pain inflicted on the audience.

All in all, by all means see it, think about it - but only once the DVD comes out - you want to be able to fast forward through about 30%.
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Oooh, you slay me, Miike!
sc803117 June 2008
This movie is kinda annoying to sit through. There isn't really a plot, so much as a theme. The title character Izo abstractly walks through time and space and movie sets propelled by his hatred at the unfair and seemingly purposeless hierarchy of the universe. There are funny and interesting moments (and social commentaries) but it's too long and meandering!

I am kinda disappointed here. Izo presents a lot of cool ideas and premises. I'm pretty sure it's based on a Japanese work of fiction and that there is some older Japanese movie about the story of Izo before his crucifixion. But in making this incarnation of the story so abstract, Miike leaves the viewer kinda bored and frustrated. I understand that this is some "Pierrot Le Fou" type of flick, where the viewer is almost "interacting" with the movie, but I've never been a fan of that stuff. I kept feeling like Miike was laughing at me for watching his film.

And indeed, many of the actors are cast as novelties to be ridiculed, including the lead role and MMA fighter Bob Sapp (funny that Kitano Takeshi appears in this, considering his movies all rule the roost!). This is blatantly discussed on the extras DVD, where Miike says a bunch of not-so-profound things about art and music. I think Miike really does get a kick out of manipulating people, is the thing. It's kinda creepy.

The music sucks, since it's mostly this exploited (autistic?) folk singer Miike fawns over. And yet Miike has a real skill for scene composition. The cinematography here is fantastic! And so are the actors who are NOT being exploited. It's a weird interplay, not unlike some of Woody Allen's interesting moments. You know, a really great cast, contrasted against a handful of really pitiful, blatantly exploited bad actors who aren't in on the joke.

By the way, don't watch this expecting a samurai film. The choreography and fighting is purposefully ugly and oafish. This movie is quite blatantly an anti-samurai film, which brings to light Miike's perspective on the subject. The anti-dogmatic stance of this film indicates a non-conservative stance of modern Japanese society.

Beautiful cinematography and interesting ideas don't make up for the purposefully manipulative and abstract portions of the film. I guess I can respect that Miike was trying to do something artistic here, but it's simply not that enjoyable or cathartic to sit through.
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Very, Very Weird and Boring Miike
Generally speaking, I am a fan of director Takashi Miike. His masterpiece "Audition" of 1999 is one of the very few brilliant Horror films from the 90s, and his repertoire includes quite a bunch of other great films. That being said, my feelings on "Izo" of 2004 are mixed. Miike is not exactly known for his conventional style of film-making, and "Izo" is indeed a film of unspeakable weirdness (which I like). The film, which is, as usual for Miike's films, very gory (even though actually not even quite as brutal as I expected it to be), basically consists of a vast number of gory battle sequences. These scenes of carnage are strung together with intervals of philosophical questions concerning life, politics and sociology. The film, which is more than imaginatively made with impressive and surreal settings, a perfect photography and astonishing effects, is brilliant in some aspects, and it has some moments that are downright ingenious. That being said, it sadly gets incredibly monotonous after a while and, as far as I am concerned, it is at least 30 minutes too long. In spite of its weirdness, "Izo" therefore regrettably evokes mainly one feeling: That of boredom.

In 1865, the assassin Izo (Kazuya Nakayama), who stands in the service of Hanpeida, an Imperial supporter, is captured after having killed many of the Shogun's men. After being executed in a particularly cruel manner, Izo does not vanish, but his rage makes him return as a vengeful (semi-)ghost, traveling through the ages in order to get his revenge...

As mentioned above, the film is very good in several aspects. It is immensely stylishly made, the carnage sequences are exceptional, the often surreal settings are more than impressive. In short: all the stylistic elements are superb, and I also liked the philosophical approaches. The performances are also good, Kazuya Nakayama is weird enough as Izo, and the supporting cast includes the great Takeshi Kitano. Inbetween, however, the film becomes overlong, sometimes almost insufferably boring, making it hard to sit through. Like everything by Miike, the film is a matter of personal taste; unlike many of his other films, this one didn't meet mine. Worth checking out for hardcore Miike-enthusiasts, but boring to sit through for everyone else.
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it is a 'love it or hate it' movie, and I love it and hate it in almost equal measure
Quinoa198423 November 2006
After watching perhaps the most reckless, surreal, mystical-style take on the ultra-bloody grind-house samurai epic, I'm not too sure who is more relentless, its main character- the unstoppable un-dead/spirit Izo (Kazuya Nakayama, likely in the performance of a career, for better &/or worse) or its director Takashi Miike. It's been compared to both Greek mythology and Jodorowsky's El Topo, and I can definitely see credence in both examples. In the first half hour to forty five minutes, actually longer if you account for, um, story, you're not sure precisely what the hell (no pun intended) is going on. Izo, at the start, gets crucified, and then we learn after a while (err, it's pretty obvious) he was quite the warrior and swordsman, who is out for vengeance as he comes back as an un-crushable spirit. Later on, we get a view into what tags along with him, in a female form, as a 'fragment', but for the most part one can only try to assume that Izo is on a collision course to nowhere, a pure embodiment of nihilistic anarchy who could be the Terminator in blood-eyed samurai garb if he/it actually had the mission.

I can't deny that Miike deserves an 'A' for effort on this sort of thing, but it's also the kind of project that veers the closest of all the work I've seen of his so far to that most overused of terms- pretentious (albeit I haven't dug deep enough into his oeuvre to make that definitive). I mean, really, what are we to make of cut-aways at varied, completely random times of newsreel footage of dictators and famous world wars and atom bombs going off in black and white, sometimes in reverse mode, or in sped-up mode? What about a guy who comes in and out of the (very loosely laid) story to do acoustic-guitar musical numbers? It does all connect, I suppose, to the sort of random madness and almost Superman-like ability to not get really that harmed, unless around his quasi-kryptonite of the order of the 'Soul-fragment'. A lot of what ends up popping up as sort of the history of Izo, before he was turned into the ultimate grudge with a sword, would be really interesting on its own, but strung together like this with the rest of the picture made it frustrating for me. Perhaps I wasn't ready enough for all of this, but for all of the virtuosity that Miike is going for with his bloody, full-blown surreal odyssey, only some of it works well while the rest falls into 'huh' mode.

But the rest of this picture is what's almost teasingly ironic about Izo. As a swordplay movie, the kind that delivers the goods on action set-pieces and violence galore, doesn't disappoint, and if anything it shows Miike knows this kind of picture, which is why in a sense he's probably trying to lampoon it underneath the very dark and Gothic exterior. Nakayama is a real force to be reckoned with, and he works well in his all-too-limited role. It's always hard to do variations on the same style of killing- slicing a sword in the blink of an eye, and sometimes seeing the (appropriately) blood-soaked and flesh-torn aftermath, or in an immediate cut-away- and Miike pulls out his entire arsenal of tricks, including a set piece with the one American actor- Bob Sapp- who barely puts up a front either despite his huge size. But even with the creativity in many of Izo's murder sequences jarring and excitingly outrageous, the repetition becomes a little tiresome. And it wasn't that the picture was too confusing, though it does contain that side of the El Topo, where it's basically intentional for it to go in circle's around people's heads.

The messages that barrage the viewer though through the content (like in one scene where Izo is at a school and you-guess-what happens and there are cutaways to classrooms where kids are asked to define 'love', 'nation', and other ultra big words taken for granted) are what become fuzzy or just too off-kilter for their own good. For someone who is usually so sharp on the edge with satire, Miike here is trying to scrape up enough with the action to justify it being there, because, of course, Izo's world is in some otherworldly plain of Greek tragedy, Buddhism, and other factions that are also connected to the true depravities and horrors of the world. But it's too much on one plate, and there's definitely the sense of overload. It's the kind of picture where the director does, more often than not, stumble on his face with his own ambitions; that being said, I'd much rather see a movie by Miike that only reaches up so high to its ideals than for a lesser filmmaker to just churn out typical product. Izo is anything but typical product, and it follows no rules (and destroys much like its character), which becomes part of the problem, at least on a first viewing.
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Noh, Play Station, MTV
djores24 February 2006
Izo is a vector-movie: it has a point of origin (Izo is put to death in the opening sequence), direction and speed (arbitrary revenge as determined by the edge of Izo's sword), but no destination. It must be stressed that unlike "traditional" narratives, it consciously avoids the end-point/solution/destination. The movie lets the aesthetics of its form shape the meaning of the story. The aesthetics in question being: hyper-loaded symbolism as conjured in Noh theater; PS2 architecture of the action - labyrinthine violence for its own sake leading up to the next level, which is more of the same with a different CGI background; MTV approach to video editing - Izo's bounces between layers of reality with the approximate speed of a cable channel surfer are spliced with archival footage and several "unplugged" Kazuki Tomokawa performances where the ancient Greek chorus would provide emotional emphasis.

The experience is not exactly rewarding but definitely unparalleled.

Apart from some questionable world-conspiracy and misogyny moments, an overall entertaining, extreme, and cryptically new take on film storytelling. Miike in his radical element.
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Izo? Izo!!
glum_t_jup16 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Before watching this film, I was aware of a great deal of negativity (hence the low rating), and so I sat down to watch "Izo" with a great deal of trepidation. But what a film! I just didn't see how the majority of the negativity could be justified. Certainly, "Izo" is highly incomprehensible with little or no plot. It is also sickeningly violent in places. However, this is a Takashi Miike film we're talking about, not some "safe", conventional film. Therefore, when people sit down to watch one of his films, surely it is a given that it is not going to be an easy ride? And yet the negativity comes from professed fans of his films...

As I was watching the film it occurred to me that this film maker, famed for the violent and bizarre content of his films and who seems keen on shocking his audience, must have increasing difficulties shocking anyone, as more fans follow his work. How many more bodily fluids can he drown his films in, after the taboo smashing "Visitor Q"? How more "out there" can he become after the bizarre "Gozu"? Is it any wonder that "Izu" is so bizarre? You can't blame the guy for pushing at the boundaries.

Repetitive? Of course. Izo kills some people for about two hours, and then the film ends. But the film is about a journey, seemingly through the afterlife, not a neat Beginning, Middle and End style of story. Like other "journey" films (LOTR, for example) it is episodic - Izo goes somewhere and does something, then goes somewhere else and does something else. I for one, found this much less tedious than LOTR - is two hours really that long when compared with Peter Jackson's slow-mo fantasy epic?? And are we really so conditioned by Hollywood's 90 minute limit that an extra half an hour is that much of a struggle?! There was certainly a huge gap between the trailer and the actual film. The trailer made "Izo" seem to be an out-and-out action film to get the heart pounding, and yet it is so much more than this, as it gets the head pounding with unusual, inventive, symbolic visuals and philosophical discussions. And a folk singer (One user hinted that the lingering shots of the singer were far beyond the boundaries of human tolerance. He's singing a song! I like listening to songs!).

Throw in some cheeky (possible) references to other films - an upside down(!)wedding massacre (Kill Bill), bullet time tomfoolery (Matrix), wire work that defies the laws of physics (hmm, too many to mention), a chase through a bamboo forest (House of Flying Daggers), a scene that reminded by of the lake scene in Hero, and probably many more that I've missed. Add some bizarre visuals - a giant caterpillar and butterflies emerging from a dead body and Izo travelling across and destroying Infinity - and you've got a pretty engaging film at worst, and a great film (my opinion) at best.

One of Miike's best, and a film I will be watching again.
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