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Sadomasochistic homoerotic yakuza thriller from Takashi Miike, director of Audition. Guaranteed to offend with its extreme violence and insouciant amorality
A film that had already developed a cult reputation on in the UK before its official release, Takashi Miike's Ichi The Killer blurs the boundaries between thriller and horror with the kind of masterful panache that the world has come to expect from Japan's most innovative filmmaker.
Based on an ultra-violent manga 'Koroshiya 1' by Hideo Yamamoto (who later teamed up with the director to produce an animated feature of the same story), Ichi The Killer is a bloodthirsty tale of a yakuza war that gives gang lieutenant Kakihara (Asano, Distance, Gohatto) a chance to explore his deepest sadomasochistic desires. Tracking misfit hit-man Ichi (Omori) through the city, Kikhara takes his obsessive belief in the principles of no pain, no gain to epic heights of perversity.
In keeping with Miike's obsession with reworking contemporary genres, Ichi The Killer is as much a splatter movie as a yakuza thriller, with Kakihara's violent interrogation methods (one character is suspended by meat hooks in his back, then has boiling oil poured over his skin) and limitless capacity for self-abuse (he enjoys being hung up on chains and beaten vigorously) playing up the gory horror. Employing CGI, Miike takes the nastiness to manga comic extremes, bending the laws of cinematic realism to suit the demands of his perversely humorous vision (which explains why the BBFC were willing to release the film with only three minutes and 15 seconds of cuts). The scene in which Kakihara cuts out his own tongue as an apology to his yakuza masters and then has to answer his mobile phone is typical of Miike's desire to induce more laughs than screams.
Although bolstering the grossness with several asides on sadomasochistic desire and the homoerotic bond between Ichi and Kakihara, this never really convinces as anything other than a fiendishly inventive splatter movie. Which is no doubt exactly what Miike intended it to be.
Ultra-violent action from Japan's leading cult director that plays fast and loose with genre conventions to deliver an innovative - and frequently revolting - work of cult Asian cinema.
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