Ichi the Killer

There are violent movies, there are really violent movies, and then there's Ichi the Killer. This Japanese movie, from director Takashi Miike (who also directly the effectively disturbing The Audition), is so ridiculously over the top that it goes beyond gore and violence into comedy. This is one weird, wild ride.

All is not well in the Japanese underworld. Gang boss Anjo has disappeared, and his most loyal underling Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) takes over the gang and is determined to find him. Kakihara has more than a few screws loose: He's as much a sadist as a masochist, he's as ready to mutilate himself as to torture others, and his most-used weapons are cooking skewers. There's Kaneko (Hiroyuki Tanaka), a good cop (and single father to a young boy) kicked off the force for losing his gun who was helped by Anjo years before and feels a sense of duty to him. Then there are the twisted pair of identical twin corrupt cops (both played by Suzuki Matsuo). And the trail leads to Ichi.

Ichi leaves a true trail of carnage behind him: Rooms are filled with corpses, blood, and formerly-internal organs. When we finally meet Ichi (Nao Omori), we see he's an adolescent mind in an adult body, sexually conflicted and intensely shy. His "costume" is an all-black outfit with shoulder pads, a big "1" in reflective lights ("ichi" is Japanese for "one"), and deadly razors that pop out of the heels. Ichi is often lying down crying and sobbing, and he is goaded into killing by Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto), an old man who convinved Ichi that the men he kills are like the bullies who used to beat up Ichi. Oh, and Ichi helped defend Kaneko's son from some bullies.

You'll need a strong stomach and a twisted sense of humor to sit through Ichi the Killer -- but it's very worth it! Miike has the actors strolling through the carnage like it's another ordinary day (especially the mutilated Kakihara walking around in a bright purple robe), giving an almost comical sense of surrealism to what could have been another simple tale of revenge. The actors all do an excellent job with their roles, and there are quite a few surprises -- not to mention undoings and inversions of movie cliches. Take a walk on the wild and oh-so-bloody side and find Ichi the Killer.

Overall Grade: B+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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