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Ichi the Killer

Ichi the Killer

Omega Project, Omega Micott Inc., Alpha Group, Spike Co. Ltd., Excellent Film, Japan, 2001
AKA: Koroshiya 1
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Sakichi Sato, Hideo Yamamoto
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Nao Ohmori, Shin’ya Tsukamoto, Paulyn Sun, Susumu Terajima, Shun Sugata, Tôru Tezuka, Yoshiki Arizono, Kiyohiko Shibukawa, Satoshi Niizuma, Suzuki Matsuo, Jun Kunimura, SABU, Moro Morooka, Hôka Kinoshita, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Mai Goto, Rio Aoki, Yoshiyuki Morishita, Setchin Kawaya, Yuki Kazamatsuri, Sakichi Sato, Kaori Sugawara, Hideo Sako, Mako Takeda, Masataka Haji, Manzô Shinra

It took some time before I got to see Ichi the Killer, and quite frankly, it wasn’t really what I expected at all. I’ve seen other work by Takashi Miike so I was expecting over the top weirdness. I’ve read some reviews so I was expecting an excess of gore. I was prepared for mixed feelings. What I wasn’t prepared for was the hilarious comedy it turned out to be. Sure, there is body parts sliced off, extreme torture, people split in half, women beaten and raped, blood and guts splashing all around but the story and the characters are so over the top it makes You laugh. I don’t thing I laughed so much to a movie since I saw Life of Brian forty years ago.

Some might find this comparison bisarre in it self but just as Life of Brian, Ichi the Killer was banned in Norway. In Stockholm and Toronto, barf bags was handed out at the film’s premiere. Of course this was a public relation stunt and nothing more, but Norwegian film censors fell for it and choose to ban it.

Ichi means One in Japanese so “Koroshiya 1” translates to “Number 1 killer” just as easy as to Ichi the Killer, and that’s exactly what Ichi appears to be. The number one killer with blades in his shoes so he can slice victims apart with his kicks. Heck, he even has his own cleaning team which tidy up his crime scenes, scrubs away all the blood and remove the left over body parts. One night he murders the sadistic Anjo, a Yakuza and leader of his own gang, and a prostitute (while Anjo is beating her up and raping her). When his cleaning team is done leaving no traces of the kill, everyone just assumes Anjo took off with the girl and 3 million missing yen. All except the extremely sadomasochistic Kakihara who suspects a rival gang is behind the disappearance.

Kakihara gets a tip from Gijiin, who used to be a Yakuza but was thrown out, that Suzuki, a rival gang leader is behind Anjo’s disappearance so Kakihara tortures Suzuki severely to make him talk. Since both gangs belong to the same Yakuza syndicate this stunt results in Kakihara getting expelled from the Yakuza. He takes over the Anjo gang, but now every other Yakuza is their enemy and rumour has it that Kakihara is Ichi’s next target. At first Kakihara is out to avenge his boss, but as Ichi is coming closer Kakihara is getting more and more fascinated by Ichi. Ichi scares him. Nobody has done that in a very long time, and his masochistic side is getting aroused by the thoughts of what pain Ichi could inflict upon him.

Ichi on the other hand turns out to be a mental case. He has nightmares about being bullied in school, and a girl, the only one who spoke up for him got gangraped in front of him as a reward. One would think he feels bad because he froze and couldn’t help her, but in reality he was turned on by watching and wanted to join in but wasn’t allowed. He is being controlled by means of brainwash and hypnotism by Gijiin who wants his revenge for being expelled from the syndicate. Kakihara sees Ichi as the “perfect pervert” and can’t wait to meet him for their final fight.

Despite the gore and the body parts is Ichi the Killer probably the most “mainstream” of the Takashi Miike films I have seen.

My verdict: 10 out of 10.

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