“Hey, we’re flexible. Pearl Harbor didn’t work out, so we got you with tape decks.”
Joe Takagi, Die Hard
If an American filmmaker walked up to Warner Bros and said, “I want to make Ichi the Killer,” the execs would turn around and say, “Not with our money.”
Japanese cinema takes risks with tone, theme, structure, character and story. In America these films would have to be made by the likes of indie filmmakers like David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch or John Waters who suffer from not-enough-fucking-money syndrome. Major studios’ main concern is making a profit on movies that cater to homogenized America that need a Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts movie every week or they whither and die. Movies like Ichi the Killer find themselves into the hearts of cult film fans and have to be purged from a covert distribution company [sometimes overseas]. Ichi is still trying to find a home in American art houses before the major 2-disc DVD release.
Okay, Takashi Miike is a great visual filmmaker [Audition, the DOA films, Visitor Q, etc.] but that doesn’t mean Ichi is the greatest movie in his filmography or in our history of film watching. Like always, his stories are book ended with an amazing opening and closing and almost non-consistent with the movies’ middle parts. Here he’s gotten closer to keeping a consistent rhythm and tone which makes more sense than his other brain fucks. A young, well-mannered, scar-faced yakuza with a mouth split wide open from ear to ear begins to hunt down an unstoppable killer that is slaughtering Japan’s yakuza bosses. The remaining yakuza builds a gang out of the orphaned underlings to hunt down this mysterious Ichi.
When we meet Ichi we find out that he’s a retard and jacks off to women getting beaten into burger. Turns out that Ichi is a victim of a traumatizing childhood event from which he’s never recovered. But whenever he battles with his scruples his benefactor/contractor puts the hypno-whammy on him sending him on a rancor trip and slaughters yakuza in a CGI-exaggerated melee. There’s a lot going on here on so many different levels that it’s hard to pin down into one thing. It’s sometimes a full-on comedy and not just a gangster flick.
The violence is so over the top that it’s extremely funny. Think of the big boss man in Dead or Alive chowing down on bowls and bowls of ramen and then getting his stomach blasted out with a shotgun and noodles and broth spill out everywhere. And of course there’s epic amounts of jugular veins spraying garden hose streams of blood for seconds at a time where no woman or children stand in his way. It takes a stomach for this one. Beware the nipple-stretch-slice sequence.
The second disc features great and informative interviews with Takashi Miike and the stars. And we lucked out this time. The interviews are subtitled or spoken in English. Most Asian DVDs exclude Amercanites from figuring out what they’re saying behind our backs, but not this time. There are some really cool behind-the-scenes stuff, press kits, trailers and the obligatory photo gallery.
Ichi the Killer (Uncut Version) (3 out of Four)
NR, 2002, 129 min., World Wide Cinema.
Tadanobu Asano, Nao Omori, Shinya Tsukamoto, Sabu, Alien Sun, Susuma Terajima, Music by Karera Musication, Dai Miyazaki and Akiko Funatsu, Written by Sakichi Sato and Directed by Takashi Miike.
The Feature with both Optional English Dubbed and Subtitles.
Interview Featurettes with Takashi Miike, Tadanobu Asano, Alien Sun and Shinya Tsukamoto. Original Trailer, Euro Trailer, Press Kit, Photo Gallery. 7 Behind-the-scenes Featurettes. Cast and Filmmaker Bios and Film Notes.
Assassins, DOA: Dead or Alive, DOA 2: Birds, DOA 3: Final, John Woo’s The Killer, Hardboiled, Grosse Point Blank, The Zero Woman, The Zero Woman Returns, The Zero Woman: Final Mission, Zero Woman: Assassin Lover, Nowhere to Hide, The Boondock Saints, Crying Freeman, Leon, The Professional, La Femme Nikita, Point of No Return…