by Takashi Miike, 2001, 115min. starring Tadanobu Asano, Alien Sun,
Nao Omori, Shinya Tsukamoto and Sabu. Rated 18. Based on manga by
Hideo Yamamoto (in Shogakukan "Weekly Young Sunday").
speaking, Ichi the Killer (literally from the Japanese, 'Killer
No.1') doesn't really belong on a Japanese horror film site. However,
it is such a fantastic film that no Japanese film site would be
complete without it. Even if like me, you're not too keen on yakuza
films, this one belongs in a category all its own. It's like no
other yakuza film before or since: it's a flashy, trashy, evil,
acid-addled, totally crazed trip. Frankly, Quentin Tarantino would
have given his right arm to have made this film, although no-one
except Takashi Miike could have made it extreme enough.
The plot goes something like this: the film features solely on warring
yakuza gangs in the notorious Shinjuku gangland and vice district
of Tokyo. The boss of the Anjo gang is "entertaining"
his prostitute girlfriend when he mysteriously vanishes, along with
1,000,000 yen. His top hitman, Kakihara (played brilliantly and
extravagantly by Tadanobu Asano, probably best known in the West
for his role in Electric Dragon 80,000v. and who is a top J-pop
star and respected musician to boot), is desperate to find him,
partly due to the stolen money and partly due to the fact that Kakihara
is an extreme masochist and Boss Anjo was his favourite sadistic
partner. He suspects another hitman, Suzuki, knows who killed him
and may have also been involved, so he tortures Suzuki for information,
which leads to his official dismissal from the gang (but only after
cutting off the end of his tongue and giving it to his temporary
boss, played by Tetsu Sawaki (who also played Aoyama in Audition),
as a kind of bizarre self-punishment/peace offering).
enlists the help of a nightclub hostess, Karen (played by Alien Sun)
who is involved with the whole yakuza scene and has a habit of making
mystical doom-laden pronouncements in dodgy American-English; but
she is a kind of double-agent, working for both Kakihara and Jijii
at the same time. She gives him clues as to the killer's identity
what he doesn't yet know is that an Anjo gang informer, Jijii (literally
'the old man'), has formed his own rival gang of hitmen around a
mysterious assassin, Ichi, a dangerously unstable and powerful schizophrenic
killer who has been hypnotised by Jijii into believing that he was
bullied as a child and failed to prevent the rape (by the kids who
were bullying him) of a girl who saved him from being hurt, and
that Ichi must take revenge against all "bullies". Unfortunately,
due to Ichi's instability, he has developed a totally twisted attitude
and gets off on rape and sadism, even though it upsets him greatly.
The problem is that when Ichi gets horny, he also gets distressed
and people who make Ichi cry tend not to live very long.
Kakihara decides to take over the Anjo gang, and leaves with a handful
of hitmen to help him discover what has happened to his boss
and it doesn't take him long to find out about Ichi the killer
is really the star of the film, replete with incredible ritual facial
scarring (he wears a ring on either side of his lips to hold his
face together, as his mouth has been sliced from ear to ear - during
several scenes, he blows smoke out of the sides of his face), fabulous
blond hair and an outrageous wardrobe. Asano does not play Kakihara
for laughs, though, as a lesser actor might have done: it is a very
understated performance for such a berserk role, which works very
However, kudos to Ichi as well, trussed up in his completely ridiculous
superhero outfit. Both actors are a tour de force in this totally
insane film which is hilarious, stylish and grotesque, all at the
same time. A real must-see for anyone who enjoys extreme filmmaking
or yakuza/gangster movies.
Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 10/10
Black Humour: 13/10
Scare Factor: 0/10
film is currently under discussion here
at the Snowblood Apple Forums.
Ichi The Killer Wallpaper
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600]
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002
There are now two new official sites, linked to the UK
release of Koroshiya Ichi: http://www.ichi-the-killer.com/
(thanks to Darren, SonTohan and Stefan for this info!)
For more information on Tadanobu Asano, there is a fantastic and
comprehensive official site devoted to him here: http://www.anore.co.jp/asano/-
however, it's Japanese-only, so non-Japanese speakers may need something
Babelfish to translate it.
- the official English-language site devoted to Tadanobu Asano
- and the brilliant unofficial TAFreak site, if you just can't get
enough of the man himself [Japanese only]
Midnight Eye, the top English-language Japanese film review site
IMHO, has a great interview with Takashi Miike here: http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/takashi_miike.shtml.
If you are looking for a copy, check our Shopping section on the