"After watching Takashi Miike's powerful "Audition," I thought following up with "Ichi the Killer" an excellent idea. I don't see much of a comparison between the two films unless you wish to look at the disturbing scenes of gory violence and the fact that "Audition" has more of a social message than this gore extravaganza. I have come away with the impression that Miike is a brilliant filmmaker capable of forcing extreme reactions from his viewers. Hollywood should take note of this guy and bring him over here for a project or two. But doing so probably wouldn't work out; Miike's warped visions would send American censors scrambling for a sedative, and most mainstream viewers would recoil from the graphic nature of this director's films. A word of warning for those thinking of indulging in "Ichi the Killer": the movie is loaded with sadism, gore, black comedy, and all around unpleasantness. It's as though this movie turns upside down everything we associate with cleanness and decency. It's a tough watch, even for a gore fan like me, so prepare thoroughly--how, I cannot really tell you because I do not know--before diving in. Good luck."Ichi the Killer" is based on a "manga," a Japanese comic strip of a type often embodying grotesque images and disturbing themes. The film follows several Yakuza gangs as they do what they do best: murder, torture, plot, and generally cause lots of unpleasantness. I am unfamiliar with the structure of the Yakuza, but I gathered from the film that there are numerous gangs (or families, as the mafia would say) each headed up by a boss. These bosses then report to a committee composed of other gang leaders and a sort of "boss of bosses"--played here by a wheezy little runt who pops up to mediate disputes every now and again--designed to keep everything from getting out of hand. When an anonymous killer named Ichi takes down a yakuza leader, the boss's underlings, including a bleach blond thug by the name of Kakihara, seek revenge. At first, Kakihara thinks rival groups had something to do with the disappearance, so he kidnaps some thugs and tortures them in an effort to get information. These gruesome antics go so far beyond the pale that the yakuza overlords send Kakihara and his fellow gang members into exile. Instead of putting an end to the out of control violence, this judgment only encourages Kakihara to even more extreme acts of nastiness. It turns out that this blond goon worshipped his boss because the leader possessed the ability to fulfill Kakihara's S&M cravings. This is sick stuff, to be sure, but it only gets worse as the movie progresses.Kakihara seeks out Ichi to avenge the boss but also to challenge the enigmatic assassin to a showdown. We soon learn Ichi is far from the icy killer we have come to expect. He's actually a meek sort who witnessed a brutal incident as a child and has since become a victim to his own guilt. A guy named Jiji expertly manipulates Ichi's psychological problems in order to carry out assassinations. All Jiji needs to do is tell his friend that certain people were involved in Ichi's childhood trauma and mayhem rapidly ensues. Clad in a black suit bristling with razor sharp blades, Ichi can turn a room full of people into sushi in about thirty seconds. After the murders take place, he often sinks into a weeping, cringing depression over what he has wrought. Jiji, completely indifferent to his friend's remorse, always has a few more targets lined up for the slaughter. Women, children, and men: all are fair game when Ichi goes on a rampage. As the movie progresses, and as Kakihara comes closer to his final showdown with the hyper violent Ichi, Miike throws in enough plot twists and turns to keep the viewer constantly guessing as to character motivations and the very nature of the reality these people move in.I am guessing I missed out on a ton of inside jokes and cultural references, probably because I do not speak the language, am not Japanese, and do not live in that country. I have never even seen, let alone read, a manga comic strip. Fortunately, Miike's film boasts plenty of black humor and gory violence to the point that being non-Japanese makes little difference in understanding the picture. You don't have to be an expert on Japanese cinema to laugh at Jiji's "muscular" transformation or the scenes where Kakihara expresses his disappointment at Ichi's subservience when the two finally meet (Kakihara actually attempts to pick his foe up in order to get him to fight! Funny!). And you definitely don't need any inside knowledge to gape at the violence. This is an insanely sick film packed to the rafters with bloodshed and carnage. My mouth dropped open, and stayed that way, when Kakihara administered a hot oil "bath" to a particularly close-mouthed gangster. Gorehounds the world over will flock to "Ichi the Killer." While you will need an iron stomach to get through this one, the film goes to great lengths to prove this is all cartoonish fantasy. I quit taking the whole thing seriously after the tongue scene, when Kakihara said, "It will get better if I keep talking," and then spoke normally in the following scene. I took this as a wink-wink, nudge-nudge from Miike, a message to the viewer that one should not take the film to heart. As far as the DVD goes, I think it should go without saying that watching the unrated edition is the way to go. If you really want to watch a movie like this one, why waste time and money fiddling around with a cut version?"
Love really hurts
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 08/27/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Ichi the Killer" ("Koroshiya 1") is a stylistic, well-made film representing a Japanese idea that seems strange to most non-Japanese, the idea that violence, even extreme violence, can be beautiful. As seen in films such as Kenka Ereji's "Elegy to Fighting," violence is an art form and a genre of Japanese movies.
This film is about killing for the sake of killing, by those who love doing it with a sexual passion. Kakihara, the masochistic Yakuza killer featured on the box cover, complains while receiving a beating that "There's no love in your violence." To commit violence without love is like having sex without emotion, and empty physical act. Director Miike Takashi has put love in his violence, and style and art.
Kakihara is the star of the film, being both brash and beautiful, but it is Ichi the Killer who is the true protagonist. Mentally unstable and boyish to the extreme, Ichi is a deranged assassin who wears a superhero costume with a bold Number 1 ("Ichi" means "Number 1" in Japanese) emblazoned on the back. Ichi is an almost-controllable tool of Jijii, who plays the gangs against each other for a mysterious motive. Jijii aims Ichi like a gun, then pulls the trigger. Kakihara deepest fantasy is to be slain by Ichi, the ultimate killer, but not before the time is right.
As you can see from this description, "Ichi the Killer" is a trip into a dark underworld of sado-masochism, lustful violence and other avenues of human nature that most people would not willfully venture into. It is without a doubt the finest film in the genre."
Ultra Violent Madness, For Better or Worse
Kasey Driscoll | 05/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Live Action Anime...yes it is an oxymoron, but it's one way to describe what Director Takashi Miike has done with Ichi the Killer. It's like a live action version of Akira or Ninja Scroll.
The film's plot is secondary so I won't dwell on it here, but if you have never seen Miike's films, get ready for a ride through the imagination of a complete mad man. The best part about the film is that Miike and his team are actually outstanding technically, and his sense of humor is both original and in my opinion hilarious.
Ichi the Killer is as glossed over and stylized as it is sadistic and violent, and believe me when I say that this film is violent. It's sexually violent content is out of whack as well and alone might earn Ichi an NC-17 stamp but it's violence is so fantastic it almost seems cartoon-like. If you didn't find humor in films like Dead Alive, Robocop, Evil Dead 2 or Kill Bill pass on Ichi, but if you like those films like I do, give Miike a chance, you won't regret it. "
DO NOT CUT THE BLOOD PACKAGING!!!!
Luke D. Elrod | Illinois | 06/09/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While the packaging can be a little tricky and isn't super effective in the way of disc protection, this is a great collectors set for a great classic film. There are openings on the side of the pouch for each disc so that they APPEAR to be floating in blood. They slide in and out. Please ignore the section in the earlier review about cutting the blood pouch open. Aside from that just look at every other review for the movie to decide. While not for everyone, Ichi is a movie that doesn't hold back and this a solid release for it."
The Epitome of Ultra-Violence
Jeffrey Ebright | Dayton, OH | 06/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is the true definition of a car wreck. From the opening credits to the ambiguous ending, you cannot turn away from the shock and horror director Takashi Miike serves up.
Sadism is the true star of this flick as we travel a road filled with unrepentant pain and suffering. Unless you have seen the movie, then you have no idea how confrontational a film can be to your very senses. Rape, torture, murder, gore and general brutality are relentless traits of this movie. Sometimes cartoonish (its Manga roots showing), sometimes jet black in its humor, the savage pace of Ichi never slows even with a 2+ hour run time.
This is not a film for the squeamish. It makes no apologies for what it is and dares you to eject it from your DVD player. But, you simply can't. This movie can only be described as beautiful revulsion.
Just a quick comment about the packaging (which is the only downside to this release). The "Blood Pack Edition" contains 2 discs of excellent material including a commentary with Takashi Miike and Ichi's Manga artist/writer Hideo Yamamoto and an intensive "making of" documentary. However, the plastic blood bag housing the discs is a sadistic joke. The suction cup like plastic sleeve makes it incredibly difficult to actually get the damn discs out of the bag to watch them! Great gimmick, poor execution.
If you are a true horror and gore enthusiast, your collection is incomplete with this brutal slice of Japanese genius."