"Kakihara! What the fuck do you think you're doing?!"
"Just a little torture."
Title: Koroshiya 1
English Title: Ichi The Killer
Director: Takashi Miike
Writer: Hideo Yamamoto, Sakichi Satô
Release Date: July 25th, 2002
Rating: R (cut), Unrated (uncut) (US); R-18 (Japan)
Runtime: 129 minutes (117 in the cut version)
In one night, the head of the Anjo yakuza family is murdered and millions of yen are stolen from the same hotel room. When Kakihara, Anjo's sadomasochistic enforcer, finds out, he goes on a rampage in order to find his boss's murderer and the stolen yen. All the while, an ex-cop bent on revenge manipulates Ichi, a young martial artist with a special combat suit, into slaughtering anyone that crosses his path. As Kakihara struggles towards the truth and Ichi's body count rises, who will come out on top?
This is not a movie for the weak-of-heart. "Ichi The Killer" is a film about murder, revenge, torture, sadomasochism, and pain. If you're familiar with Takashi Miike's work, or films such as Dead or Alive, then you've already got a good idea of what you're in for. If not, then let me give you some examples of what this film depicts:
- A man being suspended, naked, from twelve different hooks in his skin
- Multiple dismemberments, including a shot of a human face flying across the room and landing on a wall
- A tongue being cut off by its owner
If you find this for rental, it's almost certainly the R-rated version, which actually does lighten up the violence somewhat. I must recommend the unrated version, however, as the former also removes some dialog that makes the story clearer.
"Ichi The Killer" is based on a seinen manga by the same name. The original manga, believe it or not, is even more graphic than the movie, including but not limited to necrophilia, genital mutilation, and rope bondage. The story itself is essentially unchanged between the two formats. Boss Anjo, the leader of a yakuza group in Shinjuku, is killed by Ichi one night in a hotel room. Ichi is a young martial artist who is being controlled by Jiijii, an ex-policeman who uses hypnotism to plant false memories in Ichi's mind in order to provoke him into committing murders. After Anjo is killed, Jiijii steals the 300,000,000 yen in the hotel room and cleans up all the evidence of the attack.
Kakihara is a yakuza enforcer under Boss Anjo's command. When the rest of them learn of Anjo's disappearance, Kakihara is the only one who claims that their boss didn't run off, but has been taken and is being held somewhere. After they torture a rival yakuza member for information, they discover that they're being misled. Kakihara embarks on a rampage through the streets in order to find both his boss and the man who lied to them. As Kakihara tortures and kills his way through sources of info, Ichi and Jiijii start killing off other members of Kakihara's gang, working their way down until only Kakihara and a couple of stalwarts are left.
"Put some feeling into it, already! If you're going to give someone pain, you've got to get into it!"
While a lot has been made of the ultraviolence in this movie, it happens to be more than just a vehicle for some extremely talented special effects. It's also a rather funny black comedy. The violence level in this sometimes loops all the way around past disturbing into cartoonish. Kakihara (played by the esteemed Tadanobu Asano) dresses like some sort of lounge-lizard rock star and carries an absurd number of stilettos up his sleeves. Anjo's girlfriend Karen (played by Alien Sun) attempts to beat the crap out of Kakihara in an S&M version of a one-night stand, only to have Kakihara tell her she just isn't cut out for the job. Ichi has possibly the most ludicrous weapon in existence: a pair of running shoes with super-sharp razor blades hidden in the heels. Ichi himself wears a stuntman's bodysuit with a huge glowing "1" on the back when out on jobs.
The film is not without its faults. Miike plays around with a lot of different film effects, and some are only used once or twice; it's a novel approach, but it both adds and detracts from the overall experience. The original manga ran for ten full volumes, and Miike crams the entire thing into two hours, which results in a lot of characters introduced very quickly but without a lot of exposition on almost any of them. Some of the characters are weird for the sheer sake of being weird. The gore, while it's awesome, is rather stomach turning. Some of the scenes involving female actors are particularly cringe-inducing.
I like this film a lot. It's gory, it's silly, it's got some very memorable characters, and it's entertaining, which is mostly all I ask from movies these days. Obviously, it's not going to appeal to everyone, being a horror/black comedy/yakuza revenge film. It's definitely worth watching if you're into splatterhouse films or a fan of Takashi Miike's other works. It can't be stressed enough, however, that anyone with a weak stomach isn't going to like this. In addition, the unrated version is probably on par with an NC-17 rating in the U.S. If you're okay with all of that, though, go find it. It's worth the watch.
"Damn... Nobody left to kill me."