By Brett Mullins
Original Title: Koroshiya 1
Takashi Miike is known for directing high profile, gory, Japanese films that generate a cult following. His films’ vivid characters and visceral imagery ranks among the top tier of today’s artistic directors, which includes Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky.
Miike’s artistic talents are strongly exemplified in the Yakuza crime drama Ichi the Killer. The film features an overly complex plot to match its overthetop characters and extreme depictions of violence.
A Yakuza boss of the Anjo group flees leaving his sado-masochistic second-in-command Kakihara searching for answers the best way he knows how: by torturing various individuals for information. As his search continues, Kakihara uncovers a stirring and unpredictable sequence of events that challenges the limits of the characters.
Ichi the Killer is adapted beautifully from the original manga and is able to retain the fantastic feel of the print, interlacing it with moments of all too visceral realism. The film’s simplistic overarching idea, bad guys pursuing bad guys, is used as a vehicle to trash the general formula of the genre with each twist and turn.
The film appears to be built on the premise of pushing the limit on the amount of violence that can be contained in a single film, while maintaining an interesting story to hold the audience’s attention. This will be the make-or-break attribute for much of the audience because nearly every scene in the film features blood spewing up the walls from the throats of various characters. The film rarely goes two minutes of its two hour run time without some depiction of extreme violence.
If one looks past the gore, they will find subtle humor present that continues to build, as well as become progressively dark, throughout the film. This injection of humor is important, because there are many scenes where it may not clear what is occurring the first time through. These scenes of confusion do hinder the viewing experience somewhat; however, it does not overshadow the film’s artistic vision.