Oh dear, Ichi. You’ve made a bloody mess yet again. Takashi Miike’s Koroshiya 1 (Ichi the Killer) has been revived to 4K (gory) glory and brings with it the twisted crime-horror of a young man whose childhood bullying serves to manipulate him into committing ferocious murders. Intertwined in his cartoonish trail of blood and guts is the unforgettable yakuza enforcer, Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano).
Why is it worth seeing? Terrific acting, wry sense of humor (even among the entrails), colorful and chaotic footage of Shibuya’s redlight district and back alleys (production designer Takashi Sasaki worked on Kill Bill), a star-studded cast and a killer soundtrack by Karera Musication, who’s made of members of the infamous band the Boredoms. Yes, the crazy Japanese act who opened for Nirvana back in 93.
When Koroshiya 1 was released in 2001 it was banned in several countries, and audiences were offered barf bags at worldwide premieres. At the time, the mere aesthetic of Kakihara on the posters and promotional materials elicited reactions of disgust and perhaps morbid curiosity. Even among the accustomed Fantasia Film Festival attendance two people fainted during a projection… The scenes of gore and body horror have barely aged, even though in 2018, most viewers are now accustomed to scarification, piercings and body mods. But…it’s still disgustingly effective.
Anyone familiar with genre film and yakuza/crime flicks from Japan will recognize supporting cast such as Jun Kunimura (Shin Godzilla, Kill Bill, Audition) and cult directors Hiroyuki Tanaka, known as Sabu (Postman Blues, Miss Zombie) and Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, the Iron Man, Bullet Ballet, Gemini), among others. Miike has often adapted manga into live action features. Not surprisingly, Ichi is based on the manga by Hideo Yamamoto, and keeps some of the caricaturey aspects one would expect from a cartoon universe.
Go see Ichi the Killer on the big screen with a crowd. For informed audiences only – it not only contains gore, but also, scenes of rape, BDSM and extreme violence right from the opening sequence. These aim to provoke, without much moral standpoint or explanation. Miike fans will love it (while cringing). For the uninitiated, it may not be the best starting point for your admiration. Clad your stomach in iron, and give it a go, though.
*** For Montrealers, Ichi the Killer in 4K is part of Cinema du Parc’s midnight screenings, March 2nd – 4th, 2018 at 11:30pm.