Ichi the Killer (film)
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|Ichi the Killer|
Original Japanese poster
|Directed by||Takashi Miike|
|Produced by||Akiko Funatsu
|Based on||Ichi the Killer
by Hideo Yamamoto
|Music by||Karera Musication
|Editing by||Yasushi Shimamura|
|Distributed by||Media Blasters (USA)|
|Running time||129 minutes|
|Language||Japanese (some parts in English)|
Ichi the Killer (殺し屋１ Koroshiya Ichi ) is a 2001 Japanese film directed by Takashi Miike, written by Sakichi Sato, and based on Hideo Yamamoto's manga series of the same name. The film is notorious amongst moviegoers due to its extremely graphic violence. The film has received widespread controversy and is banned outright in several countries due to its high impact violence and graphic depictions of cruelty. In 2009, The Norwegian Media Authority reacted to the film and later classified the film as Rejected and banned the film due to "high impact violence and cruelty" and the film is still banned in Norway, but still available for home video purchase. The film has been banned outright in Malaysia since the film's distribution date in 2001 due to "very high impact violence & offensive depictions of cruelty" The film is banned uncut in Germany, and classified as "adults only" in a "heavily cut version".
While alone with a prostitute, crime lord Anjo is brutally murdered. As an expert cleaning crew run by Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto) removes any trace of his body, Anjo's gang and the other crime lords assume he and the prostitute fled town with ¥3 million of the gang's money. Only Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), Anjo's sadomasochistic enforcer, believes Anjo is still alive. Jijii feeds Kakihara rumors that suggest Suzuki (Susumu Terajima), a member of a rival clan, has kidnapped Anjo. Kakihara captures Suzuki and tortures him, but when Suzuki turns out to be innocent, Kakihara slices off the end of his own tongue and offers it to Suzuki's boss (Jun Kunimura) as penance.
Jijii, it is revealed, is secretly orchestrating events in order to pit yakuza clans against one another, with the help of Ichi (Nao Omori). Though a normally unassuming and cowardly young man, Ichi becomes homicidal and sexually aroused when enraged. Jijii is able to manipulate Ichi's weak personality by implanting several false memories — a high school rape in particular — and uses the unstable Ichi as an assassin. Other than killing Anjo, Ichi also kills a pimp who regularly brutalized a prostitute named Sailor that Ichi patronizes. When Sailor attacks him, Ichi kills her as well. Later, Ichi helps a boy named Takeshi by saving him from bullies; Takeshi is the son of Kaneko, one of Kakihara's henchmen.
Using Suzuki, Jijii manages to have Kakihara kicked out of the syndicate, but the entire Anjo gang defects with him. When he learns that Anjo was killed by Ichi, Kakihara kidnaps and tortures Kano, a former member of the Anjo gang who is helping Jijii. Kakihara also becomes fascinated by Ichi, imagining him to be someone who can truly fulfill his masochistic urges.
Kakihara enlists the help of a pair of corrupt twin police detectives, Jirô and Saburô (Suzuki Matsuo), to find Myu-Myu, a prostitute connected with Ryu Long, a member of Jijii's gang. Unable to get information from her through torture, Saburô sniffs her to get Long's scent and tracks him down. Though Long attempts to outrun the brothers, he is captured by Kakihara.
To turn Ichi into a complete killer, Jijii has Karen, Anjo's woman and Jijii's friend, seduce Ichi by pretending to be the woman in his false memory. When Ichi becomes confused by Karen's claims that she desired for him to rape her, he kills her. Jijii calls Kakihara to let him know Ichi is coming to kill him.
Kaneko, Kakihara and Ichi chase each other to a rooftop. Due to Jijii's psychological manipulation, Ichi believes that Kaneko is his brother and confronts him. Kaneko shoots the side of Ichi's leg, causing Ichi to slit Kaneko's throat in front of Takeshi. Takeshi attacks Ichi as he lies on the roof begging for forgiveness. Kakihara realizes Ichi cannot hurt him and inserts skewers into his ears to drown out Ichi's cries. Suddenly he sees that Ichi has chopped off Takeshi's head. Ichi charges Kakihara, embedding one of his razor-bladed boots in the center of his head. Kakihara falls from the roof to his death. However, when Jijii finds him, Kakihara has no wound in his head; he hallucinated Ichi's attack as he jumped to his death while Ichi cried.
Years later, Jijii's corpse hangs from a tree in a park. A young man resembling an older Takeshi leaves the park with a group of schoolchildren.
Cast and roles
|Susumu Terajima||Suzuki, of the Funaki gang|
|Shun Sugata||Takayama, of the Anjo gang|
|Kiyohiko Shibukawa||Ryu Long|
|Suzuki Matsuo||Jirô & Saburô, twin corrupt detectives and Anjo gang members|
|Hiroyuki Tanaka||Kaneko, Anjo's bodyguard|
|Moro Morooka||Coffee shop manager|
|Houka Kinoshita||Sailor's lover|
|Hiroshi Kobayashi||Takeshi, Kaneko's son|
|Noko Morishita||Pub Patron|
|Setchin Kawaya||Pub Proprietor|
|Yuki Kazamatsuri||Yakuza Girl|
|Sakichi Satô||Man Kicking Ichi|
Director Takashi Miike intended for the author of the original manga, Hideo Yamamoto, to write a script entirely in manga form, but the idea fell through when Yamamoto felt he could not complete it due to writer's block.
The soundtrack was written and produced by Japanese band Boredoms, credited as "Karera Musication", under the direction of ex-guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto and percussionist/band leader Yoshimi P-We.
As a publicity gimmick, vomit bags were handed out at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to those attending the midnight screening of this film. Similar bags were handed out during the Stockholm International Film Festival. Reportedly, watching the movie caused one person to throw up and another to faint. In January 2009, The Norwegian Media Authority learned of this incident and the film was banned in Norway. The film has been banned in Malaysia since the movie's distribution date. It later caused controversy in Germany and the film was banned there too. The film remains banned in all these countries as of 2009. 
Tom Mes has suggested that the film is in fact a very sophisticated assessment of violence and its relation to the media and implicating the audience. He writes that "It's a paradox, but Ichi the Killer, a film that sets new boundaries in the portrayal of violence and bloodshed, takes a strongly critical stance towards the portrayal and the consumption of the violent image. However, it does so without ever taking a moral stance towards either the portrayal or the consumption, thus circumventing any accusations of hypocrisy on the part of the director. Miike does not moralise or chastise, but provokes the audience into questioning their own attitudes towards viewing images of violence. He steers them into a direction but leaves it up to them to draw their own conclusion". Mes is also very critical of the edits made to the film. He argues that "The film as a whole is a completely cohesive unity, in that all of its parts are absolutely crucial to the functioning of the whole. Any attempt at censorship or toning down the violence will have the opposite effect and will in fact make the film more exploitative and thereby undermine its critical stance. Excising scenes of violence, particularly the 'painful' scenes, will harm the symbiosis between the 'playful' and the 'painful' violence, which forms the basis for Miike's critical approach".
- Tom Mes, 'Ichi the Killer', in Ernest Mathijs and Xavier Mendik (eds) The Cult Film Reader (Maidenhead : McGraw Hill/Open University Press, 2008), p. 361.
- Mes, p. 367.
- Ichi the Killer at the Internet Movie Database
- Ichi the Killer at allmovie
- Ichi the Killer (film) at Metacritic
- Ichi the Killer (film) at Rotten Tomatoes