ICHI THE KILLERWHAT'S A HOMICIDAL PSYCHOPATH TO DO? | Aug 29, 2003
Yakuza boss Anjo has been eviscerated. Entrails are scattered across the floor, ceiling, even the fish tank. A clean-up crew of rejected Yakuza erases every trace, including 300 million yen. But they have seen this all before; they are the ones who orchestrated it +have tidied up previous jobs. Even though Anjo’s clan thinks he has fled with the money, the traitor crew has little time to celebrate.. in the Syndicate Underworld of Japan, no enemy is safe for very long. Anjo’s implied BDSM slave-boy Kakihara [Asano Tadanobu from Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl] soon leads the hunt for ICHI the KILLER.
Kakihara is a heavily scarred hair-bleach abuser with half of his face sliced open +held together with rings. His neon wardrobe looks like it may have once belonged to the Joker or maybe even Prince, yet it suits him. We assume the scars were all “acts of love” from Anjo. The “demonic assassin” he’s searching for is actually a nervous, meek crybaby fed delusions by his vindictive brainwashing boss nicknamed Jijii [Tsukamoto Shinya --who incidentally is the director of Tetsuo]. Jijii, which means old man, utilises Ichi's naivete in order to fuel his own revenge scheme. Upon command, Ichi [played by peach-fuzz-faced Omori Nao] functions on a purely mechanical rampage, seeking revenge and justice for the pain his implanted Childhood bullies have caused him. His body responds to threats on instinct when provoked; he’s never fully aware. He sweeps his foot and his victim's jugular erupts. Then he either begins to sob or smiles and jerks off. It’s great fun; a cartoon-ish comedy where his battle moves mirror his obsession with Tekken Tag.
But soon the boy has had enough. He wants out of this lifestyle, proclaiming “killing is not nice”. He struggles with his lack of control/reality, but we have evidence that Ichi isn't exactly a saint.. he gets off by repeatedly peeping on a prostitute being abused and raped, then goes to the sex club she works at to order a blow job from her. He even pops a boner in his implanted memories of watching a gang rape. The man-child cannot be stopped as his delusions grow and fluster beyond what he has been hypnotised to think and do. So you would think that the two will meet and form a sweet duo, as Kakihara is seriously missing his whippings, making Ichi the perfect playmate.
Through character portrayal that is exclusively "Miike Takashi" you get a special side order of hot chicks, bizarre twins, a bodyguard who was fired from the police force for losing his gun, the bodyguard's young son, and much more. We view the Yakuza's world as a realistic realm where morality, empathy and deceit cannot exist, in a country where honor and loyalty reigns. You will be treated to a wonderful scene of Kakihara voluntarily slicing off the tip of his tongue to prove such loyalty [usually his bosses would demand only a finger or two]. Immediately following this, he lisps into his cell phone.. a glorious mix of horror and humour.
ICHI the KILLER is not promoting violence, it is reminding us that we cannot trust our own memories [esp. suggested +supplanted memories] although, ironically, they shape our personalities. Memories of Anjo are what keep Kakihara yearning for a replacement, even though he knows that is hopeless. With the addition of the aforementioned bodyguard's son, we see what he is exposed to and what memories he will never be able to erase. the lack of a father figure and an accidental "rescue" from Ichi spurns an attachment. Easily impressed and eager to please, the boy begins to mimic Ichi. Encapsulated by wars, broken bonds and false hope, what will this boy grow up to be like? As scenes remind us of our fragile mortality, we wonder what memories we will take to the grave, and how others will remember us.
Much controversy has been made over this film. Many people are outraged at the level of violence in this film, and they let the violence blind their judgement for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately the trailers (linked at left) available don’t do much aside from hype the violence. ie:You have one line of dialogue followed by a montage of every violent scene from the movie.
Of course the film is violent (it is a Yakuza film), but it is an over the top, cartoony style of violence, and all the violence has been done somewhere else in another movie before. A hooker gets her nipples cut off in a scene of Yakuza torture, but nipple ripping has been done before in Stuart Gordon’s Castle Freak and no one seemed to care. Granted the film went straight to video, but the scene where the freak rapes a hooker and bites off her nipples very slowly is much worse than a lightning fast razor cut that’s only on screen for the amount of time you see it in the trailer.
Also of note is Ichi has an anime prequel that Takashi Miike starred/voiced with the same name. The film just continues the established story from the prequel, but instead of being animated it is portrayed in live action. This seems to bother people a lot. They can watch cartoon women be beaten, chopped, raped, people sliced, diced, and mulched, but if the same sort of scene is done in live action, albeit in an over the top and extremely absurd manner it becomes offensive. You’ve seen much worse in anime films such as Fist of the North Star, Angel Cop, Ninja Scroll, Ninja Resurrection, Crying Freeman, and The Professional:Golgo 13.
The film also examines the destructive chain of violence. Violence is not a 1 to 1 (ichi to ichi?) equation. It’s more like a chain letter, or the sobig virus. One person is on the receiving end of the violence, who then will beat up three or four people in order to deal with the violence bestowed upon them. These three or four people go beat up three or four people each and so on. It can also become addictive for some. As Kris said, Kakihara is “missing his whippings.” He even searches for a substitute dominator in the form of a new girlfriend. She beats him. Kicks him. Slaps the shit out of him, but it won’t work. There’s no sex in her violence. He goes off to feed his addiction, leaving her saddened and confused.
Ichi the Killer is also a film that is as interesting
the second time as the first. The dangers of implied memory, blind devotion,
the destructive and addictive chain of violence, the intrinsic honor among
thieves, and the difficulties of maintaining one’s integrity all become
more apparent and more intriguing upon the second viewing. This is not a
movie to watch if violence can completely affect your opinion of the film.
The violence is only there to emphasize Miike’s points. Watch this
film only if your mind is wide open. You’re in for a very special