Review: Ichi the Killer

(Originally published October 2011)

Before Saw, there was Ichi the Killer; a Japanese film based on the manga and anime, stretched the boundaries of what cinema could get away with.

Directed by Audition‘s Takashi Miike and taking place in Japan’s gangland society, the story follows two unique but equally sadistic individuals. One is a pain-relishing torturer who has a distinct pre-Leath Ledger’s Joker vibe going on, especially the scars extending from his lips (only this guy takes his torture far beyond pencil tricks). The other character is a young man plagued by memories of being bullied, whose rage and fear magnify him into a deranged murderer.

The film begins with a quite interesting credit sequence, and then continues to become a jarring and extravagant exposure of hyper-violence, gore and sex.
Yet the Japanese are always masters at taking such sadistic material and adding black comedic moments throughout. One such moment sees our torturer character cut his own tongue out to apologise to his superior, only to immediately have a phone conversation (the boss’s terrified reaction is priceless).

As with quite a lot of manga adaptations, this film is a little too weird for me, especially with its ending. I suspected a twist and I got one, but it was more than I had bargained for and left me feeling a little disappointed. There is also a truly surreal moment with a heavy dose of cg composition… which does not work.

If you like your Japanese horror, torture and black comedy, I’d say check it out, even if its just to see the bizarre Japanese answer to the Joker.

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