Review © Mandi Apple, 2002.

Directed 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").

Strictly 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).

Kakihara 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 and whereabouts.

However, 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.

So 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…

Kakihara 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 well.
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.

Snowblood Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 10/10
Sex: 7/10
Violence: 11/10
Black Humour: 13/10
Scare Factor: 0/10
Tongue-choppings: 10/10
***Highly Recommended!***

This film is currently under discussion here at the Snowblood Apple Forums.

Ichi The Killer Wallpaper

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]

You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600] [1024x768]
Wallpaper credit: Alex Apple, 2002

Snowblood Apple Filmographies:
Takashi Miike
Tadanobu Asano


There are now two new official sites, linked to the UK release of Koroshiya Ichi: and (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: however, it's Japanese-only, so non-Japanese speakers may need something like Altavista 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:
If you are looking for a copy, check our Shopping section on the Links page.


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