Thursday, 15 September 2011

Ichi the Killer (2001)

Written by Happywax      Sept 2010
Rating 9 out of 10

Director - Takashi Miike

Tadanobu Asano - Kakihara
Nao Ohmori - Ichi
Shin'ya Tsukamoto - Jijii
Paulyn Sun - Karen
Susumu Terajima - Suzuki
                                                   Hey kiddies Happys got a gory treat for you tonight, not to mention one of my all-time favourite Takashi Miike movies, "Ichi the Killer" is a film that requires two viewings. The first viewing you are confronted, disturbed, and confused. The second viewing is to attempt to come to terms with what you just saw. If there ever is a film that can be described as "viscereal", "Ichi the Killer" is it. No matter how much you enjoyed the film, you must admit one thing - Takashi Miike is one of the most audaciously original filmmakers out there today.

Every one of his projects is unique, whether it be the total horror of "Audition", the grotesque satire of "Visitor Q", or the surreal what-ever-it-is of "The Happiness of the Katakuris". You must admire a filmmaker who wants to so severely get a reaction from his audience, whether it be negative or positive. In his best work however, Miike never comes across a whiz kid begging for attention, even if thats what he actually is.

And than we come to this, which may just well be his finest achievement. Its difficult to describe "Ichi the Killer" and even more difficult to describe what makes it work so well. For starters, imagine "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels" on PCP and far more innovative and original. Add some of the most graphic and grotesque yet still comic book violence coupled with a truly twisted sense of humor.

 This is the darkest comedy of the gallows variety. Than take the kinetic style of "Tetsuo" except with some linear storyline and characters. Mix all these and you have one of the most unique film experiences you will ever see. The film feels like a swift punch to the guts and puts all those newer "disturbing" efforts from Hollywood to absolute shame. This is a film that could never be made by a major studio in America. This is not for those seeking light entertainment, but for those who want something more out of their films. "Ichi the Killer" is very controversial even among fan  of new wave extreme Japanese cinema.

What makes all this ultimately an incredibly surreal work are the characters and their motivations. Lead gangster Kakahira is the most extreme kind of masochist imaginable and seems to be literally addicted to and unaffected by physical pain. Ichi is revealed to be the goofiest comedic character ever, yet manages to work up strength to commit brutal crimes. When these two finally meet, well all I can say is  wow!!! "Ichi the Killer" may simply be an exploitation film, but its one of the most original exploitation films ever made and probably the finest effort from the whole new wave of extreme Japanese cinema.

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