Friday, February 04, 2005

Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer DVD review

Ichi The Killer
Directed by Takashi Miike, Japan, 2002, 129 minutes, Rated R18+

Even if you are familiar with the work of maverick Japanese director Takashi Miike nothing will prepare you for the shocking horrors of Ichi The Killer. Most will have first heard his name after the psychological nightmares of Audition, many would have seen the stylised ultra violence of Fudoh: The New Generation, a few will have seen the sing-a-long a zombie comedy of Happiness of The Katakuries but nothing from Miike’s world compares to this.

Frankly its hard to recommend everyone to see Ichi the Killer; profoundly disturbing on almost every level, a vain attempt is made to add a humour element to the film but nothing can tame the retina scorching imagery on display, once you’ve seen Ichi, you’ll never forget him. Beautifully crafted, Miike’s attention to detail is remarkable, especially considering he often makes up to five movies a year.

Kakihara is a sadomasochistic yakuza with a grudge. His gangland boss has been killed. This dastardly deed was perpetuated by Ichi, a truly psychotic killer under the control of Jijii, an ex-cop who is determined to end the yakuza’s control of his hometown of Shinjuku.

Bizarrely almost all of the add campaigns for the film focused on Kakihara, the blonde sado-masochistic yakuza who is patchwork of piercing and scars topped with blonde shock of hair. In one alarming scene he saws off the end of his own tongue to prove his allegiance to the yakuza, not surprising once you’ve seen him puff smoke out of the slashes in his cheeks when he smokes a cigarette.

The character of Ichi is even more unsettling; a timid shy young man who cry’s when shouted at until he snaps and heads on a killing rampage. His history, sexual desires and the general depiction of violence against women is at odds with all that is acceptable but one has to look at the film in context. Based on a violent Manga cartoon that is sold to children in Japan, it is interesting to compare what is and isn’t acceptable in the cinema’s of the East and West. Full frontal nudity is very rare in Japanese film, there is none in Ichi the Killer, but it is ok to smash a body to pieces in shockingly graphic detail. I’m sure if this had been a Western film it would have been cut to shreds but as it is sub-titled and therefore not going to be seen by the masses, it is ok. It’s a strange world we live in.

Ichi the Killer will be a must see for fans of Miike’s work and fans of extreme cinema and Siren’s uncut DVD is an excellent way to see it. Anyone else with an interest in the bizarre should probably start with some of the directors other films and build up an immune system first!

Siren’s excellent Region 4 DVD features a small collection of extras including a Photo gallery, behind the scenes footage and the trailer make up the extras. On the audio side the film is available in Japanese with subtitles and in a dubbed English version, both in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Miike also contributes a running commentary.

Review first appeared on

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