Film Review: Ichi the Killer

Name: Ichi the Killer
Released: 2001
Language: Japanese
Director: Takashi Miike
Writers: Hideo Yamamoto (comic), Sakich Sato (screenplay)
Actors: Tadanobu Asano (Kakihara), Nao Omori (Ichi), Shin’ya Tsukamoto (Jijii)

I remember finding this film whilst reading a Sky News article. The article was titled ’50 most controversial films of all time’. Intrigued, I began to click right. There was some obvious choices in the mix such as ‘ I Spit in your Grave’, ‘A Serbian Film’ as well as the classic ‘The Human Centipede’. I heard about most of these films and they all seemed like a try-hard attempt to shock, to trigger and to glamourise hideous human acts. Except one.

Ichi the Killer was number 5 on the list and it grabbed my attention. Based on a manga by Hideo Yamamoto, Takashi Miike made an excellent job of creating a manga into a live action film, especially since some manga’s often has aspects within that can be replicated to live action. Mikke has made it look so easy!

ichi the killer

The Plot
The plot is based on a sadomasochist Yakuza member named Kakihara who is searching for his missing boss. Along the way he eventually meets Ichi, a repressed, sadistic killer who can inflict such levels of pain that Kakihara can only begin to imagine.

The film kicks off to a roaring start right after the title sequence, and the title itself is formed through dripping cum. It’s clear from the start Miike isn’t concerned with what we see in his film. There are no subtle hints of scenes we’re missing, no off camera action going on. We, the audience see everything, in full detail and in vibrant colour and he doesn’t give one ounce of a shit whether we’re offended or not. Ichi the Killer was the first film I’ve watched from Takashi Miike’s collection, which lead me down the pathway of Asian cinema at it’s most crazy!

ichi the killer

Therefore, the torture in Ichi the Killer scenes are extremely brutal and some have been the most horrific I’ve ever seen in film (for now). If you’re a harrowing cinema lover, then this is the film for you! Nothing is left out from this film; self-mutilation, physical and psychological abuse, murdering body-builders, it’s all there and therefore triggering.

The characters are as disturbing as they are intriguing. Kakihara’s scar covered face paints an unsettling portrait of a character that can only be described as ‘The King of Masochism’. His love for torturing others as well as his lust for being battered and tortured himself might leave a few audience members squirming uncomfortably in their seats. Ichi’s innocence and naivety, along with his own love of causing pain, again might make a viewer or two squirm in their seats.

Of course in order for an audience member to feel this way requires superb and utterly convincing acting skills which both Tadanobu Asano and Nao Omori delivered. This is the first film I’ve seen Asano act in, and I’ve been a big fan of his work ever since. An amazing actor who always gives stellar performance.

ichi the killer

The use of vibrant , bright colours makes each scene pop. The cinematography is on solid form, as expected at the hands of Mr Miike. The soundtrack is fantastic too, I found my head bobbing along to one or two of the tracks.

If you’re quite sensitive and easily offended , this is certainly not the film for you. I love it visually, even though it’s a such weird, crazy film. It rendered me speechless after I watched it the first time, and it still leaves me amazed and I’ve watched it a good 10 times. A nice tribute to such a brutal manga. Fantastic piece of work. To give you a bit of an insight on how raw and savage this film is, here is a clip called ‘Kakihara’s Retribution’. Enjoy.

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