I loved `Audition' by Miike and so I had to see `Ichi.'. While the style is definitely Miike's, I found that I didn't like it quite as much as `Audition.' It is hard to care much about many of the people being tortured because there is no character development in most of them with the exception of Ichi and Kakihara. Kakihara likes to be tortured, but only by those who are the best at inflicting pain. Therefore he is very studied in the art of giving pain and practices this with relish. There is a poor slob in the movie who is tied to a chair and has grossly enlarged needles thrown at his exposed face and who knows what else is done to him before they get the idea to cut his unmentionables into several ribbons with a pair of scissors. While there was little to no character development with this man it is hard not to be sympathetic to his plight. I felt a large rush of horror even though I am a female.
Ichi is interesting and has a strangely boyish face for one who is so unbalanced and capable of massive human destruction. It is hard not to feel sympathy for him as well because he is manipulated and used by someone who engages in mentally torturing him to achieve his ends.
This film is not just a straight forward slasher as many critics have said - it grabs you from many different angles and keeps the brain ticking away throughout. One minute you're laughing your head off, and the next you're trying your hardest not to look away. Then two minutes later you're deep in thought giving both the main leads a good psychological going over. At the end of the film we get some mixed up mental messages and have to decide what to do with this information-Miike's trademark as far as I can tell.
Whilst there are people out there who will absolutely hate this film and find themselves trying not to vomit, those of you who can take some comic book ultra violence and have a slightly darker sense of humour and are as curious as I am can defiantly check this title out.
on June 29, 2004
This is a story set in Tokyo, a yazuka boss with blonde hair is looking for the one who killed his boss named " Ichi The Killer". Ichi is an anti-hero who goes around Tokyo looking for rapists then slices them literally in pieces with ultra-sharp razors, now the boss of the yazuka clan must find him and kill him.
An entertaining, nasty, violent, funny and gory Yakuza flick from acclaimed Japanese director Takashi Miiki ( who did " Audition" and " Visitor Q). It's based on a Japanese manga of the same name, this movie is quite an interesting, sleazy and disturbing movie with loads of good acting, complicated storyline and gore abound, it's definitely not for the faint hearted but it's a gore lover's kind of movie all the way. Can't wait to watch the anime prequel to it coming this fall on DVD.
Also recommended: " Riki-Oh The Story of Ricky", " Kill Bill Vol. 1", " Fist of the North Star ( Animated)", " Battle Royale", "Hellraiser", "Scarface", " Freddy Vs. Jason", " Versus", " The Toxic Avenger", " Maniac ( 1980)", " The last House on The Left", " House on The Edge of the Park", " Suspiria", " Phenomena", " Inferno", " Sleepless", " The New York Ripper".
on June 29, 2004
Having only seen one Takashi Miike film (FUDOH - THE NEW GENERATION) before this, I was a little apprehensive when reading the back of this DVD. Though I enjoyed FUDOH, it wasn't what I would call a great movie. After reading the synopsis, I expected ICHI to be little more than a PULP FICTION-style thriller. Never a fan of John Woo or filmmakers of that type, I settled in to watch ICHI with slightly lower expectations than FUDOH (which, again, I enjoyed, but did not find great). Boy, was I ever in for a shock. The violence of FUDOH does not even begin to compare with that of ICHI... and FUDOH was one hell of a violent movie! More importantly than that, however, was the fact that beyond its often astounding violence was a great story filled with fascinating characters. Filmed in a super-fast-paced style, ICHI tells the story of ruthless yakuza assassin Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano is absolutely terrifying!), a maniac with a sadistic streak a mile wide and a masochistic streak just as wide, who goes on a rampage to find his boss, who has disappeared with a large sum of money. In his search for the missing ganglord, he quite literally leaves a trail of blood and guts behind him. His outrageously violent methods anger the other members of Japan's organized crime world, to a point that they enlist the help of the mysterious titular character in disposing of the maniac. Ichi remains unseen (or so we think) till well into the film (and his appearance is one of the biggest shocks of all), with only his gruesome handiwork on display till then. It all sounds very ordinary (or at least it did to me), but the beauty of this film (as well, I am led to believe, as Miike's others) is the director's ability to completely pervert the conventions of the crime thriller in order to deliver something that more closely resembles David Cronenberg than John Woo or Quentin Tarantino: this is no hip, tongue-in-cheek gangster comedy. Miike plays for keeps, as evidenced by the frequently disturbing imagery and subject matter. The acting in the film is worthy of mention as well. As stated before, Asano is very effective in the principal role; Shinya Tsukamoto (director of the wonderful TETSUO films) appears as a seemingly cowardly retired yakuza boss with a few schemes of his own; and almost everyone else leaves a very distinct impression (there is one actor in particular, who sounds as though he has some kind of breathing problem, who I will never forget, and I can't remember the character's name). Though often painful to watch (and I mean that in the most literal sense), there is a real and palpable beauty to the proceedings, which is due no doubt in part to the cinematography as well as the great editing. I read a review of this movie somewhere that said it was like one of the ultraviolent movies that Malcolm McDowell is forced to watch in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE as part of his brainwashing. I find that an amusing comparison, and it should let the viewer know what he or she is in for. I agree with the other Amazon reviewer who says that calling this a "splatter" movie is almost an insult; I think this is probably one of the best movies of the past decade, and deserves recognition as more than just a gorefest or crime thriller. Plus I love the ending. I think I could get to be a huge Takashi Miike fan: I've since seen AUDITION, HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS, and VISITOR Q, and I have no complaints so far about any of this man's films. Watch this if you can stomach the violence, and see for yourself what a huge talent the amazingly prolific Takashi Miike really is!!!
on April 21, 2004
I loved 'Audition' and I've been trying to get my hands on Visitor Q, in the meanwhile I stumbled across Ichi. Considering it's by the same director, Takeshi Miike (a sort of Japanese Tarantino), and after reading up on the film's overall hype and reputation, I thought I'd give it a try. I loved the cold, sterile style of cinematography and the narrative in Audition. I was hoping this would be similar. An intelligent yet warped storyline, submersed with dry wit, cynicism and surrealism. I think there's definite elements from the 'Audition' side of things in there (particularly the torture scenes - which I was sorta hoping would be a tiny bit more graphic), but I didn't find it half as intriguing.
I guess the film mainly appealed to me because of my occasional bloodlust. I don't even mind if the gore is senseless and irrelevant sometimes, as long as it's depicted realistically and fits somehow, even symbolically, into the context of the plot. In the end, I found this film was really about pain which fills the empty void in life, illustrated in a sort of twisted s&m/fetish, murder and rape way. I find that the director sorta likes to experiment on the viewers, and his films are the idyllic sort of stimulus medium in which to 'freak us out' and then make us think about why we watched his film and probably why we enjoyed it and want to see another. I found that's the effect both Audition and Ichi had on me.
The only thing that kinda bothered me about the violence was how fake it was, like when Ichi slices through the first guy with his shoe-blade (which is the stupidest weapon, why not just use a knife for f**k sake) and he splits down the middle (although I'm pretty sure that was intended to be comedic as it is so obviously computer animated), or when Kakihara is punched in the mouth and his face wounds spread open. I can see how it was supposed to be satirical in a way. I think the biggest let-down was the ending, it seemed far too unplanned and incoherent. Kakihara's demise was sort of romanticised which held the greatest relevance to the theme. The fight scene was ridiculous though, and at that stage Ichi's nervousness becomes incredibly irritating.
Overall, generally it's an ok film, suitable for trippy late-night loneliness. Some really good parts and an interesting concept, but it tends to drag on and a lot of the latter scenes and violence don't really have any point. The films doesn't offer much in the way of exposition or explanation. If you're looking for a more profound and substantial film which relates to pain and loneliness, Audition is much better.
on April 7, 2004
Gentlemen, I intend to give your lives meaning..."
I'm not sure if I feel worse that I saw "Ichi the Killer" or that I actually enjoyed it! Probably neither actually. I saw "Suicide circle" a week before, and I feel I may have been somewhat hasty when I said in my review it was the weirdest movie I've ever seen - I think that "Ichi" might just have it beat...
Anyone who saw the humor in the "American Psycho" novel, or enjoyed "Very Bad Things" will definitely want to see this. The plot is fairly ludicrous and poorly explained. Some guys want to bust up some gang so they set a couple of gangs against each other. I think that's it - although there were plenty of mistakes in the subtitles and my Japanese isn't so hot, but I think I got most of it.
Anyway, the real attraction isn't the plot, it's the characters, Ichi and Kakihara. Ichi is a reluctant mass-murderer, while the Kakihara is a willing masochist. Should be fun when they meet, right? The premises and backstories are waaay out there and there's a subtle twist to the denouement and all in all it is a fantastically entertaining ride.
If you have the stomach to sit through it that is...
on March 28, 2004
Masochist: "Beat me!"
This is for those that think the violence is pointless or that the movie has no plot. If you haven't seen the movie you might not want to read this.
Jiji (the old man) is after Kakihara, why I have no idea. He wants to inflict as much pain as possible on Kakihara and his gang, which is difficult seeing how Kakihara is a masochist. Jiji is actually Ichi's old karate instructor (the muscular dude is the real Jiji the old man is his disguise). He knew Ichi when he killed his parents and used that to brainwash him. What he didn't know is that Ichi is a monster sadist who doesn't fully realize it. Jiji can't just go after Kakihara for no reason so he fixes it where he gets hired to do it, which is why he sets up Suzuki.
The violence in the movie comes in two forms, the comic book stylized violence which is almost comical and the ultra -realistic stuff, usually perpetrated against a female. The movie is not misogynistic, women are used because they are seen as being delicate and therefore the violence resonates more than it does violence against men. By contrasting these two kinds of violence Miike allows the viewer to set their own limitations for their consumption of violence; in fact, the whole sadism masochism thing could be seen as a reflection of this. (Miike could be saying that the person that perpetrates violence, the sadist (filmmaker), is no better or worse than the person who enjoys receiving it, the masochist, or viewer. (Miike makes the viewer identify with Kakihara by tricking us at the beginning.) The way in which Jiji (and Miike) get their revenge is through dissapointment. Instead of a huge violent showdown, ala DoA, we get a bawling Ichi laying on the ground a wreck. The part when Ichi kills the kid and goes after Kakihara is Kakihara's fantasy. Because no one inflicts pain on him he has to do it himself, just like when he cut out his tongue. This dissapointment is reinforced by flashing to him in his dungeon after Karen dissapointed him. And because the viewer was sitting their in anticipation of a big ol' violent confrontation we are revealed as sado-masochists ourselves.
A few cool things about this movie:
Miike spent two extra months on the CG (and extra money) on the part where Ichi splits the pimp in half. He could have made it more realistic looking in less time and for less money.
The customer in the hostess bar with Karen at the beginning was in Kill Bill. So were the guys that played Funaki and Takayama.
The guy that played Jiji is Shinya Tsukamoto the director of Tetsuo. The guy that played Kaneko is director Sabu.
At the beginning when they are in the hostess bar when Kakihara looks at Jiji's group if you look at him closely he looks exactly like Ichi. (Or is it just me?)
Well, those are just a few thoughts on this work of genius, I could probably go on all day. And if you can pick up Tom Mes's book "Agitator" about Takashi Miike.
on March 10, 2004
I dig violence. I dig it a lot. And obviously, that's the first thing I'm going to mention in this review. Call me narrow-minded if you want, but how the hell could I help it? However, like I said, I dig "violence." I don't really dig pain all that much. And that's exactly what I got from this.
Yeah, it was pretty cartoony most of the time, but there were occasions that were downright unforgiveable. What kind of sadist enjoys seeing a women raped, beaten, de-nippled (yes, it's a madeup word), and battered to death. Sadistic is indeed the word. This includes the film's first of many torture scenes involving hooks, needles, and hot oil. It's slow, drawn out, and simply not pleasant to watch. (And by "not pleasant," I'm not talking about the kind of violence you saw in Schindler's List.)
Now that I've discussed the hot topic, there's another matter to be discussed. This film is plagued with unnecessary characters. The biggest examples are the ex-cop (who got fired for losing his gun) and his son. As for the other unnecessary characters, I guess it was just more people to torture to death, or murder in some other gruesome way, kind of like B horror movies from the 1980's, which no one ever claimed was art.
And if you try to say that they were imperative to a complex story, I say p-lease. Good movies, like Snatch or Gosford Park, that have large lists of characters usually employ them cleverly into the overall plot. They each mean something important, and have a substantial impact. You get the feeling that this story wouldn't have been nearly the same had that character been negated. In the case of Ichi, these characters were all just characters who knew other characters; simply more blank faces for the camera.
I'll give some credit to cinematography, and rushed filmmaking (I'm a huge Robert Rodriguez fan), but aside from that, this film is only worth seeing out of curiosity.
on February 26, 2004
Ichi the Killer (Takashi Miike, 2001)
Takashi Miike is a very, very strange man.
The director who had runaway (okay, relatively) success in America with 2000's Audition has resurfaced with this much-loved cult film from 2001. Instead of treading the same ground, Takashi did what many Japanese directors do; bent another genre, in this case the Yakuza film (Americans, think spaghetti western, or maybe spaghetti western as directed by Sam Peckinpah).
As usual, the gangs are at war in Shinjuku. Boss Anjo, who heads the Anjo gang, disappears without a trace one night, despite guards being right outside the door. His right-hand man, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), is bent on finding his kidnapper. It's probably not a spoiler, given the film's title, to mention that that would be the mysterious Ichi the Killer. Kakihara's search takes him through the nastiest parts of the Shinjuku underworld, but he keeps getting closer. Or so he thinks.
Despite Ichi being named in the film's title (and, when it comes right down to it, being the single most interesting hit man to find his way to celluloid in decades), Kakihara is the film's star. Kakihara is a sadomasochist without parallel, or so he thinks until he starts hearing about Ichi. His obsession grows with the idea that Ichi may be able to give Kakihara the kind of death he craves (a violent, painful one, naturally). As seems to happen in even the most mediocre Japanese films, American audiences are likely to be surprised by the depth of storyline to be found here and the honesty of the emotions involved. Assuming, of course, they can get beyond the violence. Those who have seen Audition probably have a basic idea of what to expect. But the violence in Audition was confined to the last fifteen minutes, whereas it permeates every bloody second of Ichi's two-hours-plus. It has the same grimly comedic feel as does the violence in, say, Kei Fujiwara's film Organ, simply because it's so over the top that any nod to realism goes out the door early on. (Kakihara holding up a string of guts by a pen and making admiring comments as to Ichi's technique will probably have the reader snickering and squirming at the same time.)
All of which is well and good, and Ichi the Killer is a fine way to kill two hours. But it doesn't have the same "wow" factor as did Miike's earlier Audition, nor, say, the films of Hideo Nakata. So expect a lot of good, gory fun, but don't expect to think too much about it afterwards. *** ½
on February 25, 2004
This is a story about Kakihara, a member of the Yakuza, searching for the boss he so dearly loves, and a pure masochist, in spite of what the film's initial scenes may lead you to believe. Kakihara posseses meaning, flamboyance, and confidence, not so much desiring to die in the suicidal sense, but to live greatly and experience the ultimate joy and ecstacy of death. Ichi is his complete polar opposite. He has been conditioned and trained to kill, and to kill without mercy. Ichi is sexually aroused by murder--the movie's title emerges from his semen after he watches a beating and rape, and thus, he is a pure sadist. He realizes, at the most crucial point, that people do want to be killed because they do not want to be killed--precisely Kakihara's mind. But Ichi is like a little boy, innocent and unable to act against his brain-washing. And it is Kakihara searching for his missing Yakuza boss through torture and mutilation, and Ichi despondently slaughtering Kakihara's followers that leads them to ultimately meet, but neither are in control of their selves. The movie can be seen in varying lights, from social commentary to psychoanalysis, but it never explains most of the questions it raises, the most important being why, both the plot and the film itself. The dialogue and humour are both incredible, but there needs to be some sort of justification for the level of violence and gore. A Quentin Tarantino film is enough blood to serve as social commentary, but Ichi the Killer seems excessive. Yet, I do have to say...I cannot describe the movie, you must see it. And after you see it, you will want to show everyone else.
on February 21, 2004
I have seen many extreme and violent films over the years and the problem with this, is that it's very easy to become somewhat jaded and too demanding of onscreen mayhem. Most American films these days just aren't that shocking, so it's being left to our Asian cousins to supply the goods. Even so and despite the film's and Director's reputation, I wasn't expecting too much from this one.
Boy, was I wrong! Firstly, let me say that to do the film justice you do need to see the full uncut version (the UK R2 is missing over 3mins and thus I had to import yet again). The film itself is both horrifically violent and beautifully made - it is simply a highly entertaining and disturbing movie.
The levels of violence achieved are frankly awesome and yet its mixed very cleverly with darkly black humour. There are several scenes which almost had me wincing, including the infamous torture sequence and 'nipple slicing' scene, which were honestly a breath of fresh air since the Director did not pull any punches at all - you go into this expecting to be taken to the edge and you are.
Oddly, the only thing I will give away about this movie is the fact that Ichi the Killer is NOT the blonde guy with the mouth clips that you see on all the posters. This was quite a suprise to me, but actually heightened the film's effect.
The effects are simply incredible and whilst some of the violence may be far beyond most tastes, for those feeling a little war weary having enjoyed the more transgressive Italian and Asian flicks of the past, you won't be disappointed.
Hats off to the Director for pulling off what could have been very easily a real mess, but instead is a work of vision, violence and knowing. If you can go beyond some of the more extreme visceral shocks in store, you will find a film that is compelling, cleverly written and well acted - you cannot imagine anyone else playing these characters (especially the two leads; Kakihara and Ichi are played with precise relish).
Not for all tastes but any regard, but for once a film both refreshingly violent and deserved of it's increasing reputation. It isn't a one-stop gory horror, it's far more.
I have seen the future of violence and it is 'Ichi the Killer'!