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  Ichi the Killer  
  |     review    |     notes     |     availability     |    

Tadanobu Asano (center) and Pauline Suen (second from left) headline Ichi the Killer.
  AKA: Koroshiya Ichi    
  Based on : Koroshiya Ichi by Hideo Yamamoto    
  Year: 2001    
  Director: Takashi Miike    
  Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Shinya Tsukamoto, Pauline Suen Kai-Kwan, Sabu, Susumu Terajima, Shun Sugata, Toru Tezuka  
The Skinny: Were you asking yourself what Takashi Miike would do next after Visitor Q? Well, this is your answer. And - ready or not - it means more blood-spilling, nipple & tongue-slicing, oil-pouring, face-ripping insanity from the cult director. Whether or not that makes for compelling cinema is up to you. Miike's ode to S&M is definitely not for the easily insulted and/or disgusted.
by LunaSea:
     Sometimes one wonders when enough is enough. Takashi Miike, whose last two years have been a rollercoaster of international acclaim, should be familiar with that. There's a point where pushing the boundaries results in something as negative as the inane censorship the filmmakers are trying to criticize. Eventually, you end up desensitizing the audience so much that everything becomes routine, and nothing impresses anymore. Certainly not everybody has seen the full scope of Takashi Miike's crazy filmmaking (and many will start with this film), but for some fans like this reviewer, who have been following the cult director since the late nineties, there's a feeling that a slight change is needed.
     That doesn't mean that Ichi The Killer is a bad film. On the contrary, it features many things you've come to expect from Miike films, including a tremendously creative use of editing and cinematography, irreverent tongue-in-cheek humor, and sex and brutal violence brought to an extreme. The problem is, when it's all said and done, Ichi The Killer feels just like another Takashi Miike film. It lacks a "soul," unlike other Miike films including Visitor Q, Audition, Rainy Dog and Dead or Alive. It seems like Miike is having fun with all this cheesy CGI-enhanced insanity at the expense of interesting, well drawn characters. Those are the main faults of Ichi The Killer, which are actually hard to notice, because the film is still fun, in a familiarly grotesque way.
     The boss of the Anjo clan is gone, and with him all of the clan's money. His right hand man Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) is eager to find him, not only because of his importance inside the clan, but also because the boss was an extreme sadist and Kakihara enjoyed the violence that was inflicted upon him for many years. Suddenly his leave has left a void in Kakihara's lust for pain, and like a drug fiend experiencing withdrawal, he needs to find him as soon as possible. He and the rest of the clan search all over Shinjuku, causing chaos among the rival gangs who are becoming worried. The culprit for Kakihara and Co. seems to be a young man named Ichi (Nao Omori). His dark childhood has made him an unstoppable killing machine in the service of a retired Yakuza (Shinya Tsukamoto). Kakihara has finally found a substitute to his boss' brutality. Expectations are high for Kakihara; he wants to find Ichi and experience his ultimate sadism, even if that involves death.
     The plot might scare you, but it's not really that bad. There's the usual tongue-in-cheek humor applied to everything (albeit in smaller doses than usual), and some of the murders are so cheesy you can't help but laugh. One man is cut in half from his head to his toes. Another gets his face ripped off and thrown at the wall, and ses it slowly descending to the floor. And to kill a pimp, a character wears fake doggy ears and starts "sniffing" one of his women's crotch to find the pimp's location.
     However, the film's biggest flaw (even in its uncut version) is that the past of the characters is never explored effectively, so what we witness seems like mere exploitation, or violence for violence's sake. It's not that difficult to understand the motivations of Kakihara (an addict of S&M), or Ichi (a manipulated, weak young boy, led to sadism by his problems). But, it always seems to come as an added bonus, or a secondary addition to the madness they showcase. The uneven plot also hurts the film, which always seems to return to the insane violence whenever there's a weak spot.
     Whether you'll enjoy Ichi The Killer or not depends on your familiarity with Miike's work, or if you're starting to feel a little tired of Miike pushing the boundaries. After the Shinjuku Triad and Dead or Alive trilogies, Visitor Q, Audition and now this, what's left to push?. Personally, the film was fun the first time, but then the flaws emerge and make the rest of the film quite dull. Thankfully Miike is one of the world's most prolific directors, and his remake of The Quiet Family (Happiness of the Katakuris) should be a welcome change of pace. For once, no excessive gore and violence. Are you ready for that? (LunaSea 2002)
Notes: • The Hong Kong release of Ichi The Killer is heavily censored. Cuts not only involve violence (some are pretty noticeable, some other are a little subtler), but also character development. In particular, the reasons why the cop (played by indie director Hiroyuki Tanaka/Sabu) turned Yakuza are explained, and we get more examples of Kakihara's masochism. There's an uncut US Release set for the end of year by Media Blasters/Tokyo Shock. If you can handle Japanese decently (this is not a film where dialogue dominates), the R2 release is excellent, although it does not have subtitles.
Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters
Uncut Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese and English Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
Audio Commentary with Takashi Miike and Hideo Yamamoto (English Subtitled)
Photo Gallery, Trailers
    Universe Laser DVD (Hong Kong - Censored 113 Min Version)
Region 3 NTSC
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English & Chinese Subtitles
    Pioneer DVD (Japan - Uncut 128 Min Version)
2-disc Special Edition
Region 2 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Japanese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
No Subtitles
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 Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen