RaEL Film Guide

Ichi The Killer
Dir: Takashi Miike

Takashi Miike might be remembered for his harrowing violence in The Audition (2000) and he continued some of the film's sadomasochistic themes in this 2001 follow-up, Ichi The Killer.

Based on a manga, this violence-filled black comedy however is closer to Battle Royale in spirit than The Audition. Mild-mannered Ichi (Nao Omori) is hypnotised by Jijil (Shinya Tsukamoto) into killing rival gangs in Tokyo. No reasons are given for Jijil's actions but when Ichi takes out gang boss Anjo, his second-in-command, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), steps in to find the missing gangster.

Forget this if you are squeamish. For starters, in a torture sequence, a gang underling has his body pierced by barbecue skewers. For over-stepping the chain of command, Kakihara slices off his tongue as a form of penance (incidentally, the tongue does regenerate itself). And the highlights of Ichi The Killer - when Ichi slices and dices his victims - bodies are literally split into halves and limbs and torsos are summarily quartered. You not only find gushing blood but slippery, visceral-drenched apartments. Next to this, the violence in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill seems almost studied.

Based on a rape incident that might or might not have happened, Ichi is hypnotised into thinking that he's the vengeful superhero out to right all wrongs. Dressed in a black outfit with blades embedded in the heels of his boots, Ichi's duty is to punish - in all cases, his victims end up dead. On the other hand, Kakihara, who enjoyed a sadomasochistic relationship with Anjo, hopes to meet his match in Ichi.

Never mind if the ending has a tendency to be ambiguous - the final image of a boy looking into the camera suggests that anyone can be an Ichi - or that Kakihara spiked his brain using skewers through his ears for an auto-erotic climax, hence fantasising the end. In this delirious and wild ride, what comes across best are two lonely characters who create their own hell and perhaps finding their own releases without their meaning to. - Stephen Tan

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