With “Ichi the Killer”, Takashi Miike, Japan’s wildest filmmaker gives us a crime fighter carrying more emotional baggage than Batman, the Punisher and Aquaman put together. As a child, Ichi witnesses the rape of a young girl who stepped in and tried to prevent a group of bullies from picking on him. Weak and unable to help the girl, Ichi grows up to be quite the disturbed young man complete with a rape fetish and the burning need to kill those that do wrong to others. Yeah, Ichi’s a little messed up, but his funky body armor with razor blades attached to the heels of his feet make him a marvel to watch as he slices and dices through a plethora of no goods.
I’m a huge fan of Takashi Miike’s work (“Audition”, “Fudoh”) and I personally believe that he’s a cyborg or some sort of being from another planet. This guy puts out at least five films a year and every single one that I’ve seen is a pure spectacle, completely unique from its brothers and sisters. I don’t think Takashi ever eats or sleeps, yet his brain keeps churning out some of the most creatively twisted films out there. That’s incredible. But…it looks like my fears may be coming true. Besides being an overall master filmmaker, I mostly enjoy the diversity of his output I’ve been afraid that with all that he has under his belt (which may include a remake of “Zatoichi” starring Beat Takeshi in the title role) his films would start recycling themselves. It’s a miracle that it hasn’t happened sooner, but with “Ichi the Killer” we get the feeling that the time may indeed be nigh.
“Ichi” is kinda like a blend of “Fudoh” and “Dead or Alive” with a few extra twists thrown in. It’s a dark, gritty Yakuza revenge tale featuring cartoony gore and a cast of deranged characters that wear their depravity proudly on their sleeves. The bulk of the film, rather than focusing on the disturbed Ichi, deals with treachery going on within rival Yakuza gangs as they try and figure out who it is that’s not only killing off their members, but tearing them to bloody shreds. Followers of Takashi’s films won’t find much new to chew on, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s always great to see a director doing what he does best. Would anyone bitch if George Romero made another kick a*s zombie movie? HELL NO! Takashi knows how to make a great, sleazy Yakuza film, but what I’m missing here is that sense of something brand new.
Also, I would’ve liked to have seen the title character exploited more. The film always got more interesting the more we learned about Ichi and his problems, but once we’re fed more of his character, we’re then hurried of to linger in more Yakuza depravity, which, to its credit, certainly contains scenes that will have people talking upon seeing it, especially those not used to Takashi’s brand of no holds barred violence.