Ichi the Killer (2001)
December 7, 2022 2:04 PM - Subscribe

As sadomasochistic yakuza enforcer Kakihara searches for his missing boss he comes across Ichi, a repressed and psychotic killer who may be able to inflict levels of pain that Kakihara has only dreamed of achieving. Trailer

64% on Rotten Tomatoes; available in the U.S. on a number of ad-supported services, on Hoopla, and for rent at various places: JustWatch listing.
posted by johnofjack (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am absolutely not the right audience for this film; in fact, I can't think of many films I've enjoyed less. It's violent, gory, sadistic, revolting, sordid, and so far over the top it nearly creates its own genre.

But I know some people love it, and it definitely has a cult following.
posted by johnofjack at 2:07 PM on December 7, 2022

As I recall, the title of the movie is spelled out in semen left by a voyeur who has just watched a woman get beaten. I can offer no greater caution to this film. I personally have seen it, maybe twice though never to the end, and I have learned I do not like Miike movies so much.
posted by Catblack at 2:11 PM on December 7, 2022

I mean, it’s no Visitor Q.
posted by hototogisu at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Did you watch the uncut version? It has a particularly divisive scene involving a nipple. If you don't know what I'm talking about then you actually saw the tamer version.

I had read the comic before I ever saw the film, so I was actually a little underwhelmed since I was expecting something even more violent, sexualized, and in poor taste. I can't really defend the sexual violence that fills it, but I do I think the homoeroticism and S&M themes go a long way towards justifying it as a piece of media. Not to mention the existentialism and rejection of consumerism and capitalism at the heart of the narrative. Put in context of the era and culture (1993 Japan, so aids had ravaged the gay community and the economy blew up the year before) and the type of fatalism and transgression that fuels it feels like a direct response to the word.

Catblack, I wouldn't write of Takeshi Miike off if you've only seen his more provocateur style stuff that he's famous for. There is some really fun stuff in his catalogue like The Mole Song, and some legitimately great, non-transgressive, movies like The Bird People in China. He's way too prolific and unpredictable to judge based off just one tor two movies.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:56 PM on December 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Yes, I saw the nipple scene.

("Metafilter: Yes, I saw the nipple scene.")
posted by johnofjack at 2:27 PM on December 8, 2022

You definitely saw the more intense version, then. Not that the cut version is that much less extreme.

May I ask why you decided to watch Ichi the Killer? Did you know about its reputation going in or did its contents come as a surprise to you? I ask because Miike seems to be one of the only provocateurs that people end up watching by accident. His works kind of get sold as "weird Japanese insanity" and people can end up watching something like Ichi, Visitor Q, Gozu, or whatever thinking they are in for cartoonish fun. That doesn't really happen with folks like Lars van Trier or Gaspar Noe.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 4:09 PM on December 8, 2022

I stumbled onto Gozu ages ago and found it unpleasant but oddly compelling. I guess I just wanted to give him another chance, but I'm not sure why I chose this one over Audition. I think Audition is generally held in higher regard. [shrugs]
posted by johnofjack at 4:27 PM on December 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

I ask because Miike seems to be one of the only provocateurs that people end up watching by accident.

Not quite an accident, but I brought the movie "Shortbus" to a movie night based on a strong recommendation of someone I trusted. My friends have never let me live that one down.
posted by ishmael at 4:36 PM on December 8, 2022

She called it a "cult classic".
posted by ishmael at 4:39 PM on December 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Gozu is more dream logic-y, sort of what you might get if David Lynch were obsessed with Yakuza instead of Americana. I can see how that would make you curious about watching more of his filmography. If you're willing to try another Miike then I strongly recommend The Bird People in China. It doesn't have the hallmark violence and gruesomeness, but it is coming at things from unusual directions and has that same sense of humor that is the real through line in Miike's filmography.

Ichi the Killer is niche interest for sure. I think it is more interesting than it is genuinely good and I'd never recommend it to someone outside of very specific circumstances.
She called it a "cult classic".
It definitely is! Not a movie to surprise the wrong crowd with, though. I would take it as a complement that someone would sincerely recommend Shortbus to you.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 9:56 PM on December 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Personally, I love this movie, but I've lived with it for twenty years and don't even notice the gross stuff anymore; it's an incredibly shocking film until the shocks wear off, and then you're left with an interesting (if semi-coherent) social satire and an absolutely spellbinding performance in Asano's Kakihara, the equal of any weirdo role by Nicolas Cage or Johnny Depp.

This is probably the most disgusting Miike movie I've seen, but Visitor Q may be less accessible; at least Ichi has a budget. If you're looking for Miike horror that's a bit subtler, you can't go wrong with Audition, widely considered his best film. He's also made plenty of Yakuza movies that are not quite so early Peter Jackson when it comes to severed limbs and body fluids; recent films like Yakuza Apocalypse and First Love may be what you're after.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 5:15 AM on December 9, 2022

There are some films that aren't worth watching unless you see them on a big, hires screen with a fantastic sound system. This film also cries out for specialized equipment.

I had a good time watching Ichi the Killer but I saw it under ideal laboratory conditions: projected on the inside wall of a dingy warehouse in a bad part of town surrounded by a dozen drunk and stoned members of a professional wrestling troupe.

Unless you have a similar setup I would maybe give this one a miss.
posted by AndrewStephens at 11:42 AM on December 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

For the more "weird Japanese insanity" (as forbiddencabinet puts it) side of Miike, I'd recommend something like Happiness of the Katakuris or Sukiyaki Western Django. His samurai-focused films are also really good: 13 Assassins is one of the best action films of the 21st century, and Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a great international art-house drama; Blade of the Immortal is also excellent.
posted by Saxon Kane at 3:58 PM on December 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

If I recall correctly it had its NA premiere in Toronto on September 11 2001. Bad timing.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 12:45 PM on December 10, 2022

Audition, widely considered his best film.

Audition is great and all, but HAPPINESS OF THE KATAKURIS

twenty years later, I still catch shit from some friends for making them watch this from my weird Japanese film collection, but I have NO REGRETS because it is a JOYOUS DELIGHT
posted by FatherDagon at 7:16 AM on December 14, 2022

Happiness is so good, but it's another one I feel iffy about recommending because some of the things it makes jokes about could land really poorly for certain people.

Anyone that loves Yakuza Apocalypse should check out The Mole Song trilogy and Dead or Alive.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2022

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