Ichi the Killer (film)

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

Ichi the Killer (Japanese: 殺し屋1, romanizedKoroshiya Ichi, lit.'Hitman One') is a 2001 Japanese crime action film[2] directed by Takashi Miike, written by Sakichi Sato, and starring Tadanobu Asano and Nao Omori. Based on Hideo Yamamoto's manga series of the same name, its plot follows 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.

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


A man named Ichi stands on a balcony, masturbating while spying on a pimp raping and assaulting a prostitute. When the pimp discovers him, he flees.

Sadistic Yakuza boss Anjo is murdered. A cleaning crew run by Jijii removes all traces of Anjo's death and credits Ichi for the murder. Later, Kakihara, Anjo's sadomasochistic high-ranking enforcer, visits the spotless apartment and concludes that Anjo fled town with a prostitute and three million yen of the clan's money. Kakihara visits an underworld night club with other clan members. He tells Anjo's girlfriend, an English-speaking Chinese prostitute named Karen, that Anjo must still be alive, perhaps kidnapped by a rival clan. Jijii feeds Kakihara rumors that Suzuki, a member of the rival Funaki 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 as penance.

Kakihara and other clan members capture Kano, a drug-addled member of the cleaning crew. He reveals that although he helped clean up the murder scene, it was Ichi who killed Anjo, and that Kakihara has now been targeted. Later, Ichi returns to the pimp's balcony to watch him brutalize Sailor, a prostitute whom Ichi is a regular patron of. Ichi eventually intervenes, killing the pimp and telling Sailor that he will now be the one to assault her. When Sailor tries to defend herself, Ichi reflexively kills her.

At Suzuki's prompting, Kakihara is banished from the Yakuza, but the entire Anjo clan defects with him. Suzuki then promises Jijii a million yen to kill Kakihara. Jijii, it is revealed, is secretly orchestrating events in order to pit Yakuza clans against one another, with the help of Ichi. Though normally unassuming and cowardly, Ichi becomes homicidal and sexually aroused when enraged. Jijii is able to manipulate Ichi by implanting several false memories — a high school rape in particular — and uses Ichi as an assassin.

Ichi fights off three bullies attacking a boy named Takeshi. Takeshi is the son of Kaneko, one of Kakihara's henchmen. Jijii incites Ichi to enter an apartment containing several members of the old Anjo clan and murder them all. Afterwards, Ichi sees Takeshi, who thanks him for the earlier protection. Kaneko finds a brothel-keeper assaulting Ichi in an alley and rescues him, remembering his own rescue by a member of the Anjo clan some years previously.

Kakihara enlists the help of corrupt twin police detectives, Jirō and Saburō, 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 tracks Long down. Though Long outruns the brothers, Kakihara captures him so the twins can torture him for leads to Jijii. Meanwhile, Jijii has Karen seduce Ichi by pretending to be the raped woman from his false memory. When Ichi becomes confused by Karen's claims that she desired for him to rape and assault her, he kills her. Jijii informs Kakihara that Ichi is coming to kill him but is spotted by Takayama, one of Kakihara's men. After a pursuit, Jijii, who is revealed to be surprisingly strong and muscular, disarms Takayama and kills him. Ichi then arrives at Kakihara's base, where he kills Jirō and Saburō.

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 Ichi's leg, and Ichi slits Kaneko's throat in front of Takeshi. Takeshi attacks Ichi as he experiences a mental breakdown. Bewildered by Ichi's behaviour and perturbed by his screams, Kakihara inserts his skewers into his ears. He suddenly sees that Ichi has decapitated Takeshi. Ichi charges at Kakihara, embedding a bladed boot into his forehead. 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.

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, a yakuza enforcer who worked for Anjo.
  • Nao Omori as Ichi, a psychotic and sexually repressed man who becomes reflexively murderous when aroused.
  • Shinya Tsukamoto as Jijii, Ichi's mysterious handler responsible for the murders he commits
  • Alien Sun as Karen, an English-speaking Zainichi Chinese prostitute who is a friend of Jijii's and ex-girlfriend of the sadistic yakuza boss, 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 young 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]


Film journalist 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]

As a publicity gimmick, barf bags were received by viewers out at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) to those attending the midnight screening of this movie. Similar bags were given during the Stockholm International Film Festival. Reportedly, watching this film caused one viewer to throw up and another to faint. The British Board of Film Classification refused the release of the uncut film in the United Kingdom, citing "scenes of mutilated, raped or savagely beaten women or of sexual pleasure from violence."[10] A compulsory cut of three minutes and fifteen seconds of content was required for the film's release; the cut version was passed with an 18 certificate.[11] For the Hong Kong release, sixteen minutes and 59 seconds were cut.[12][unreliable source?] The movie has been banned outright in Norway and Malaysia,[13][14] and banned for distribution in Germany.[15]

In 2018, a digital restoration of the film was made by L'Immagine Ritrovata. The first public screening was at the HKIFF42.[16]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 65% based on 40 reviews, with a weighted average rating of 6.20/10. 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."[17] Metacritic reports a score of 55 out of 100 based on 10 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[18]

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."[19]

Other critics were more critical of the film's 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."[20]


The film was followed by a prequel, 1-Ichi. Nao Omori reprises his role in the prequel, playing a younger version of Ichi.[21]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ "[Butcher Block] Takashi Miike's Extreme Gorefest 'Ichi the Killer'". 4 September 2018.
  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. ^ "Ichi the Killer". bbfc.co.uk. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  11. ^ "Ichi the Killer". bbfc.co.uk. British Board of Film Classification. Archived from the original on 20 July 2019. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  12. ^ "Ichi the Killer (Comparison: HK DVD (Cat III) - Japanese DVD)". movie-censorship.com. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  13. ^ Mottram, James (7 December 2017). "Takashi Miike on his 100th film: 'I just feel my body clock is different when it comes to making films than other directors'". independent.co.uk. The Independent. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  14. ^ Kerr, Elizabeth (19 March 2018). "Filmart Flashback: In 2001, Takashi Miike Brought Ultra Violence to the Mainstream with 'Ichi the Killer'". hollywoodreporter.com. Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  15. ^ Navarro, Meagan (4 September 2018). "[Butcher Block] Takashi Miike's Extreme Gorefest 'Ichi the Killer'". bloody-disgusting.com. Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved 11 February 2021.
  16. ^ "HKIFF". www.hkiff.org.hk. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer) (2001)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  18. ^ "Ichi the Killer Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  19. ^ "Takashi Miike's "Ichi the Killer" Is An Excessive Plunge Into the World of the Yakuza | The Village Voice". www.villagevoice.com. 9 November 2017. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  20. ^ Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1) - Movie Reviews, retrieved 6 February 2020
  21. ^ "Ichi-1 (2003) - Masato Tanno". AllMovie. Retrieved 26 September 2017. {{cite web}}: External link in |ref= (help)

External links[edit]