Ichi the Killer Movie Review

Twenty minutes into Takashi Miike's latest, visceral opus Ichi the Killer, I had to stop the film in fear of going mad from the mayhem I was witnessing. A violent opera of sadism filled with mutilated yakuza, masochistic prostitutes, and innocent victims caught up in a swath of incendiary revenge, Ichi the Killer is nothing short of a masterpiece -- and a challenging one.

Takashi Miike is no stranger to producing disturbing, genre-busting, and gut-wrenching cinematic treats like the Dead or Alive series, Audition, and Visitor Q. Watching a Miike film is akin to tossing the works of Billy Wilder, John Ford, Werner Fassbinder, Clive Barker, and David Cronenberg into a blender on puree mode. Then throw the mix against the wall, wipe it up with a sponge, and squeeze it onto fresh celluloid.

If you want a story, the synopsis of Ichi the Killer is about as complicated as Sadism for Dummies. Based on the popular manga by Hideo Yamamoto, Ichi the Killer is a vivid tale of retribution and revenge set within the yakuza underworld. After his yakuza boss goes missing, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano, the Asian version of Johnny Depp) uses his sadistic methods of interrogation to find the boss's assumed killers. Working his way through underworld connections - with the use of hot oil, piercing needles, and large hooks - Kakihara discovers his boss's demise came at the hands of Ichi (Nao Omori), a mysterious figure that slices individuals into numerous bloody pieces with razor-sharp blades strapped to his boots. As Kakihara draws closer, Ichi turns the tables on the hunter and brings his own vengeance, served up sushi style.

While Miike has been down the hitman/burned-out cop/vicious killer road before, he has impressively reworked and revised the genre. The character of Ichi, a disturbed individual emotionally manipulated and fueled by hate via programmed memories of a girl's rape, stands as one of the strongest cases of Freudian, sexual confusion ever imprinted on the silver screen.

The best part of the film is its realistic gore. Whenever Ichi slices open a throat with his razor-sharp boots, the blood sprays like a broken water main, painting all corners of the room in crimson fury. By mixing in CG elements, Ichi literally slices people in half. Gore aside, Asano and Omori are impressive actors, with Miike maintaining an omnipresent sense of danger and suspense throughout the film's duration. Highly recommended, but be forewarned, it'll take a strong stomach.

Aka Koroshiya 1. Screened at the 45th Annual San Francisco International Film Festival.

Cut himself shaving.


Ichi the Killer Rating

" Essential "

Rating: NR, 2001


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