Ichi the Killer (film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Ichi the Killer
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTakashi Miike
Produced by
  • Akiko Funatsu
  • Dai Miyazaki
Screenplay bySakichi Satō
Based onIchi the Killer
by Hideo Yamamoto
Music by
CinematographyHideo Yamamoto
Edited byYasushi Shimamura
Distributed byMedia Blasters (USA)
Release date
  • 14 September 2001 (2001-09-14) (TIFF)
  • 22 December 2001 (2001-12-22) (Japan)
Running time
128 minutes[1]

Ichi the Killer (殺し屋1, Koroshiya Ichi) is a 2001 Japanese action crime film[2] directed by Takashi Miike, written by Sakichi Sato, based on Hideo Yamamoto's manga series of the same name, and starring Tadanobu Asano and Nao Omori. Omori portrays the title character, a psychologically damaged man who is manipulated into assaulting or killing rival faction members of feuding yakuza gangs while being pursued by a sadomasochistic enforcer (Asano).

The film has garnered controversy due to its graphic depictions of violence and cruelty, and has been banned in several countries.[3]


In a flashback, Ichi masturbates on an apartment balcony while watching a pimp assault a prostitute within.

Off-camera, sadistic Yakuza boss Anjo is brutally murdered. An expert cleaning crew run by Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto) immediately removes any trace of Anjo's remains, and credits Ichi for the kill. Later, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), Anjo's sadomasochistic enforcer, and other crime lords visit the spotless apartment, concluding that Anjo fled town with the prostitute and ¥3 million of the gang's money.

Kakihara visits an underworld night club with other gang members. He tells Anjo's girlfriend, an English-speaking Chinese prostitute named Karen (Alien Sun) that Anjo must still be alive, though perhaps kidnapped by a rival gang. He also greets Jijii and the cleaning crew at another table, unaware they were in town, and asking them to contact him if they learn anything of Anjo's status.

Jijii feeds Kakihara rumors suggesting that Suzuki (Susumu Terajima), a member of the rival Funaki clan, has kidnapped Anjo. Kakihara captures Suzuki and tortures him with suspension and piercing, 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.

Kakihara and gang members raid a hotel room and capture Kano, a drug-addled member of the cleaning crew. Kano has had facial plastic surgery since Kakihara last saw him, but he admits his identity and his past acquaintance with Kakihara when he believes he will be killed. He reveals that although he helped clean up the murder scene, it was Ichi who killed Anjo, and Kakihara has now been targeted.

Returning to the opening flashback, Ichi is stepping in from the balcony to kill the pimp brutalizing Sailor, a prostitute whom Ichi patronizes. Afterwards, he tells her that he will be the one beating her up now. When Sailor assaults him, Ichi reflexively kills her as well.

At Suzuki's prompting, Kakihara is kicked out of the syndicate, but the entire Anjo gang defects with him. Suzuki then promises Jijii a million yen to 'squash' Kakihara. Jijii, it is revealed, is secretly orchestrating events in order to pit yakuza clans against one another, with the help of Ichi. 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.

While bicycling in the evening, Ichi assaults one of three boys bullying a fourth named Takeshi. Takeshi is the son of Kaneko, one of Kakihara's henchmen. Jijii incites Ichi to enter an apartment containing several criminals of the old Anjo gang, and slaughter them all. Afterward Ichi sees Takeshi, who thanks him for the earlier protection. Kaneko finds a brothel-keeper assaulting Ichi in an alley and, remembering his own long-ago rescue by a member of the Anjo gang, helps Ichi out.

Kakihara enlists the help of corrupt twin police detectives, Jirō and Saburō (Suzuki Matsuo), to find Myu-Myu, a prostitute connected with Ryu Long, a member of Jijii's gang. When Jirō fails to get information from her through torture, Saburō sniffs her body to get Long's scent and tracks him down. Though Long outruns the brothers, Kakihara captures him and with the twins tortures him for leads to Jijii.

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 but is spotted by one of Kakihara's men, Jijii is caught and held at gunpoint but Jijii disarms him and grotesquely breaks his body.

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 both Takeshi's murder and 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.


  • Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara, one of the main antagonists of the film and a sadistic Yakuza enforcer who worked for Anjo, a psycho, ruthless and sadistic Yakuza boss
  • Nao Omori as Ichi, the protagonist of the film. A man who, from a cowardly man, becomes the bloodiest killer in the Tokyo criminal underworld to save his life from Yakuza.
  • Shinya Tsukamoto as Jijii, one of the main antagonists of the film and the head of a expert cleaning crew, a team responsible for cleaning up the mess caused by Yakuza (this includes cadavers and blood). He is responsible for the events that occur in the film and is mysteriously murdered at the end of the film, brutally killed by someone unknown in retaliation for all the crimes he committed.
  • Alien Sun as Karen, a english-speaking Zainichi Chinese (ethnic Chinese in Japan) prostitute who is a friend of Jijii and ex-girlfriend of the sadistic boss of Yakuza Anjo.
  • Sabu as Kaneko, one of Kakihara's henchmen.
  • Susumu Terajima as Suzuki, a Yakuza gangster who is a member of the notorious Funaki clan.
  • Shun Sugata as Takayama
  • Toru Tezuka as Fujiwara
  • Yoshiki Arizono as Nakazawa
  • Kiyohiko Shibukawa as Ryu Long, a Zainichi Chinese gangster and member of Jijii's expert cleaning crew and gang.
  • Satoshi Niizuma as Inoue
  • Suzuki Matsuo as Jirō & Saburō, a pair of twin brothers and corrupt detectives from Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department
  • Jun Kunimura as Funaki, the head of the powerful Funaki clan, a notorious Yakuza syndicate.
  • Moro Morooka as Coffee shop manager
  • Houka Kinoshita as Sailor's lover
  • Hiroshi Kobayashi as Takeshi, Kaneko's son.
  • Mai Goto as Sailor, a prostitute who is object of desire of Ichi.
  • Rio Aoki as Miyuki ("Myu-Myu"), a prostitute connected with Ryu Long.
  • Noko Morishita as Pub patron
  • Setchin Kawaya as Pub proprietor
  • Yuki Kazamatsuri as Yakuza Girl
  • Sakichi Satō as Man kicking Ichi


The soundtrack was written and produced by Karera Musication, a side project of the Japanese band Boredoms, under the direction of ex-guitarist Seiichi Yamamoto and percussionist/band leader Yoshimi P-We.[4]


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".[5]

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".[6]


The film had its world premiere in the Midnight Madness section at the 2001 Toronto International Film Festival on 14 September 2001.[7][8] It was released in Japan on 22 December 2001.[9]

The film has been banned in Malaysia since the movie's release.[citation needed] It later caused controversy in Germany and the film was banned for distribution there too.[citation needed] Private possession of the film remains legal.[citation needed]

In 2018, a digital restoration of the film was made by L'Immagine Ritrovata, the first public screening was at the 42 HKIFF.[10]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 64% based on 39 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 6.21/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Ichi The Killer is a thoroughly shocking gorefest that will surely entertain those with strong stomachs and a penchant for brutal violence."[11] Metacritic reports a score of 55 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12]

Some critics praised Miike's stylish and narrative approach. Tanner Tafelski of The Village Voice noted, "Miike layers a blood-stained commentary on a toxic world in which men offer protection to men but really end up dooming them to exist within a spasmodic, shambolic, and hypermasculine sphere of violence."[13]

Other critics were more critical of the films extreme violence and found the film inconsistent. Dennis Harvey said for Variety, "Even hardy gonzo-cinema auds will likely find the hectic pace overstimulating to the point of numbed-out tedium."[14]


The film was followed by a prequel, 1-Ichi. Nao Omori reprises his role in the prequel, playing a younger version of Ichi.[15]


  1. ^ "Ichi the Killer (18) (CUT)". British Board of Film Classification. 11 December 2001. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  2. ^ "Ichi the Killer (2001) - Takashi Miike". AllMovie.
  3. ^ https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3517878/butcher-block-takashi-miikes-extreme-gorefest-ichi-killer/#:~:text=It%20was%20banned%20in%20Norway,might%20actually%20use%20when%20watching.
  4. ^ Leone, Dominique. "Karera Musication: Koroshiya Ichi". Pitchfork. Retrieved 9 January 2015.
  5. ^ Mes, Tom (2008). Mathijs, Ernest; Mendik, Xavier (eds.). The Cult Film Reader. Maidenhead : McGraw Hill/Open University Press. p. 361. ISBN 978-0335219230.
  6. ^ Mes, p. 367
  7. ^ "'Killer' stalks Toronto". Variety. 22 August 2001. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  8. ^ "TIFF Mini Reviews: Friday, September 14". Now. 30 August 2001. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  9. ^ "「少年・少女よ、突破せよ!」(三池監督) 『殺し屋1』初日舞台挨拶開催される。". Cinema Topics (in Japanese). 23 January 2001. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  10. ^ "HKIFF". www.hkiff.org.hk. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer) (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  12. ^ "Ichi the Killer Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  13. ^ "Takashi Miike's "Ichi the Killer" Is An Excessive Plunge Into the World of the Yakuza | The Village Voice". www.villagevoice.com. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  14. ^ Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1) - Movie Reviews, retrieved 6 February 2020
  15. ^ "Ichi-1 (2003) - Masato Tanno". AllMovie. Retrieved 26 September 2017.

External links[edit]