Ichi the KillerJuly 25, 2002
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.
Release Year: 2001
Rating: 7.1/10 (26,135 voted)
Critic's Score: 50/100
Stars: Tadanobu Asano, Nao Ohmori, Shin'ya Tsukamoto
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?
Writers: Hideo Yamamoto, Sakichi Satô
(as Alien Sun)
Coffee Shop Manager
Ai wa, kanari itai. (Love really hurts.)
Release Date: 25 July 2002
Box Office Details
Did You Know?
As a publicity gimmick, barf bags were handed out at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to those attending the midnight screening of this film.
When Kakihara is attacked in the streets, protective padding is visible under his clothing. Look for it when he bends over backwards without falling over, before he removes his piercings.
Listen, when you're giving pain to someone, don't think about the pain that person is feeling. Just concentrate on how good it feels to be causing someone pain. That's the best thing you can do for a true masochist!
A mixed bag for me
Ichi the Killer is the story of a Yakuza gang run by Anjo, whom his
underlings find missing (possibly killed) with 100 million yen gone as
well. The functional head of Anjo's gang while he's absent is an
off-the-wall sadomasochist named Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano). There is a
former affiliate gang, now somewhat rivals, run by Fujiwara (Toru
Tezuka), and there are a number of gang outcasts who hang out at a
bar/brothel, with Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto) as their head. Jijii is
manipulating/grooming a bizarre killer named Ichi (Nao Omori), who is
gradually taking out Anjo and Fujiwara gang members for him.
If you haven't seen infamous Japanese cult film director Takashi
Miike's Ichi the Killer yet and you're considering it, there is one
"test" that might make the decision easy for you–do you like fairly
regular over-the-top violence, torture and gore? If that's enough to
turn you on to a film, do not pass Ichi the Killer up–you're sure to
love it. This is one of the most brutal and gory films I've seen, and
yes, I've seen Andreas Schnaas films. However, if those things are
enough to turn your stomach instead, you shouldn't come near this film
with a two-foot needle.
For me, I don't mind over-the-top violence, torture and gore, but that
in itself isn't sufficient for me to like a film. Despite some
admirable stylistic flourishes, including some very unique
cinematography and editing as well as an unusual but extremely
effective soundtrack, there were a number of things in Ichi the Killer
that didn't quite work for me. I ended up liking the film, but just
moderately. A 7 is a "C" in my rating system.
One problem I had with the film, which might be clear from the
description in my first paragraph, is that the plot isn't exactly easy
to follow. Writer Sakichi Satô, adapting the script from a manga
(Japanese comic) by Hideo Yamamoto, introduces a large number of
characters in each scene, and we do not always get their names or very
clear dialogue explaining who they are. There were quite a few
characters for whom I was never very sure about their identity. In
conjunction with this, the film didn't always flow as well as it should
have. It tends to feel like long scenes of establishing exposition
alternated with violence/torture showcases.
But by the final "act", there are some very interesting revelations
about characters and their relationships to one another. So it's not
that the kernel of a good story isn't there. It's just told a bit
awkwardly. This might not have been helped by the fact that Miike has
stated that he was shooting for a kind of open-ended vagueness that is
characteristic of Asian genre films. The impact of the revelations is
somewhat dissolved by the time we get to the dénouement due to the
The beginning of Ichi the Killer employs a lot of extended
cinematographic techniques in rapid succession ala Oliver
Stone–different film speeds, stocks, tinting and processing methods,
and so on. While these are interesting, Miike forgets about them
quickly as he works his way into the story. They pop up occasionally
later in the film, as do a couple shots in the vein of Dario Argento,
such as a tracking shot through someone's ear. Even when more
conventional, the cinematography and production design remain admirable
throughout–I particularly liked the shot of Kakihara sitting in front
of a red background, with his purple coat and green scarf, but there is
a lot of outstanding visual composition in the film.
Whether intended or not, Ichi the Killer frequently reads as more of a
black (morbid) comedy. This is because the violence is so over-the-top
that it is frequently cartoonish and ridiculous. Those are positive
qualities in my book, but anyone looking for realism should beware. On
the other hand, the emotional reactions from "victims" are fairly
realistic throughout the film, including the fact that people do not
die immediately after they are injured.
But Miike's concern, as with his other films, is more surrealist. The
behavior of the principal characters is particularly wacky, especially
Ichi, who often seems borderline mentally deficient–he cries and
cowers before he brutally attacks his victims, and has a very odd
sexual dysfunction associated with his violence. Ichi is also portrayed
as something akin to a superhero, and Miike constantly bounces back and
forth between showing him as an admirable vigilante and an anti-hero.
Kakihara, who is giving something of a venerable "bad boy" rock
star/punk persona, is also almost a hero through much of the film, and
he also has some bizarre sexual dysfunctions, as do a number of other
characters. This is one of the main subtexts of the film; it isn't
entirely dissimilar to the later A Snake of June (2002). There is also
another character who undergoes something of a superhero
transformation, as he sheds his public appearance and becomes a
muscle-bound avenger near the climax.