If I could best sum up Miike’s film “Ichi the Killer” in only one sentence, I’d use the word: Havoc. Because Miike’s film about a sadistic mobster attempting to find a sadistic avenger is Miike’s all out masturbatory practice in sadism, torture, and sheer lunacy. If you thought the last half hour of “Audition” was utterly insane, try sitting through the entire 135 minute running time of “Ichi”. Told through many narratives almost like a darker “Pulp Fiction”, Miike’s entire film is a sheer test on his audience, a test of stomach turning, cringe-inducing sadism that he explores without pulling his punches.
Once again, Miike digs in to the deeper madness of the human mind with mobsters and villains whom are both comedic and utterly merciless. As always he explores his concepts of torture through ugly disgusting characters in seedy locales intermingling and clashing. “Ichi” is one part comedy, one part horror, one part thriller, and three parts mob action and Miike rarely goes a scene without inflicting sheer pain on someone. Kakihara is perhaps the most vicious mobster in Japan, and after many of his bosses show up dead or missing, he intends to discover who performed these murders. The killer has a particular method for inflicting death, and it’s through utterly gory, and messy ways that make Kakihara gleaming with joy.
The reclusive and enigmatic Ichi is a demented man who distinguishes of these men through incredibly brutal fashions, and now Kakihara wants to meet him. And kill him. Miike presents his heroes and villains in shades of gray and hardly ever explores a character without a single perfection. Each entity here is a flawed and grotesque result of Miike’s mayhem. Especially Ichi who is one of the most surreal heroes of any culture. With a padded costume, a large yellow 1 on the back of his costume, and a truly original weapon, Nao Omori goes to town with the demented character taking on the demented villains of the Miike world. Sadly, though, “Ichi” falls on deaf ears in terms of a truly engrossing story.
Miike’s “Ichi” is really not as powerful as his others on his repertoire, and most of “Ichi” is comprised of a weak premise based solely around how shocking Miike can be in such a long period of time. “Ichi” is really a mixed assortment is truly excellent sequences intermingled with utterly ridiculous scenes that are never funny, and never as clever as Miike thinks. As for the utterly disappointing climax in which we finally get to see Kakihara and Ichi battle, Miike never pays off with what he promises from the very beginning relying more on a comedic tone instead of really giving us the brunt of his sadism. It seemed by the climax that Miike had grown truly exhausted with his own film and instead chose to close it on a soft note instead of striking us where it hurts.
“Ichi” is less about a killer tracking a killer, and more a sadistic practice in exploring how many torture scenes director Miike can inflict on the audience. With his trademark tongue chopping, burning with hot oil, tearing a face apart, throat cuts, and every other method you can imagine, “Ichi” is a sadistic thriller. And Miike goes to town. While it may be the weaker of Miike’s films so far, it sure is a lot of fun. And “Ichi” is the personification of Miike’s talents, imagination, and sadistic sick mind that make up most of his career. With brutal gore, and sickening torture scenes, Miike’s “Ichi The Killer” hurts so bad, but feels so good.