Ichi is a totally psychedelic and insane trip on the Takashi Miike rollercoaster of extreme film making.
One day, Boss Anjo of the powerful yakuza group "The Anjo Group" vanishes, together with one hundred million yen. In fact, Boss Anjo was assassinated by the Killer Ichi, with the blood bath masterminded by Jijii. Kakihara, a member of the Anjo Group, orders his crew to search for the boss, basically turning the town upside down. With the help of mysterious club hostess Karen, Kakihara gets closer to finding Jijii's hired Killer, Ichi...
ICHI THE KILLER has become quite famous (and infamous) outside of Japan for its psychedelic style and (at times) its gut wrenching gore. I mean what do you expect from Japan’s number 1 shock director Takashi Miike? Who’s directed a huge library of movies from twisted psychotic romance turned horror movie AUDITION (starring the excellent Eihi Shiina), to laugh-out-loud zombie black comedy HAPPYNESS OF THE KATAKURIS and of course this psychedelic yakuza gore shock fest ICHI THE KILLER.
ICHI THE KILLER is really one of those films that tries to be many things at once and actually gets away with it unharmed.
When it wants to be funny it can be hilarious. When it wants to be sombre, it can be depressing.
When it wants to be taken seriously, you better take it seriously!
The audio and visuals, like a number of popular Asian films, do show the limitations of their budget and equipment. I don’t think a single Asian movie will pull off the slick visuals of a Hollywood blockbuster but then again there’s nothing wrong with not being overly gloss. ICHI THE KILLER isn’t bad aurally and visually, it just isn’t as slick as it could’ve been on a more monstrous budget.
Story-wise, it’s a very intriguing movie and will keep you interested to see who keeps their loyalties and just what the character’s true agendas actually are.
The only real problem is the ending which is so brain piercingly confusing that even I don’t know quite know what to make of it after watching it so many times.
The acting is usually spot-on with a couple of exceptions.
Tadanobu Asano (ZATOICHI) is flawless as Kakihara and plays the character so subtly a lesser actor would’ve turned Kakihara into a fruity gangster ala Goro Kishitani in RETURNER (Goro wasn’t bad in that movie, he just wouldn’t suit the role of Kakihara).
Alien Sun is good as Karen but her constant switching between Japanese and American-English during overly preachy speeches can be quite annoying for some people.
Ichi on the other hand, sits snugly somewhere in the middle of “outrageously brilliant” and “just plain annoying” because of his constant crying and wailing.
Despite some of these negatives, they are just tiny blips on the radar and can be easily overlooked.
If ICHI THE KILLER is your first introduction to Takashi Miike’s more grotesque, gritty, sombre and sexual (sorry boys not the kind of sexual you’re thinking of!) works, you may want to take a step back if you don’t feel you’re ready for what ICHI THE KILLER has install for you. Those wanting a more squeaky clean (in terms of controversy) Takashi Miike film, start with his new horror film ONE MISSED CALL and work you’re way up from there.
ESSENTIAL FOR HARDCORE CINEMA FANS! For everyone else…
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