Koroshiya 1 (2001)

ICHI THE KILLER (Koroshiya 1)

(director/writer: Takashi Miike; screenwriters: Sakichi Sato/based on the comics by Hideo Yamamoto; cinematographer: Hideo Yamamoto; editor: Yasushi Shimamura; music: Karera Musication; cast: Tadanobu Asano (Kakihara), Nao Omori (Ichi), Shinya Tsukamoto (Jijii), Paulyn Sun (Karen, as Alien Sun), Sabu (Kaneko), Shun Sugata (Takayama), Toru Tezuka (Fujiwara), Paulyn Sun (Karen), Matsuo Suzuki (Jiro), Susumu Terajima (Suzuki), Hiroshi Kobayashi (Takeshi), Mai Goto (Sailor), Kee (Ryu); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Dai Miyazaki/Akiko Funatsu; Media Blasters; 2001-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)

Miiki holds up violence as a virtue, in this nonconformist cartoon-like ode to ultra-violence, sadism and masochism.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Takashi Miike (“Audition”/”Visitor Q”/”Dead or Alive”)scores one for the thrill seekers, who find such over-the-top exploitation shocker splatter films funny. If you take this cult film seriously, then you also might take Bugs Bunny seriously. Miiki holds up violence as a virtue, in this nonconformist cartoon-like ode to ultra-violence, sadism and masochism. The unsettling gory yakuza story is adapted from Hideo Yamamoto’s adult manga Koroshiya 1, which Miike is faithful to as he boggles our minds with its absurdities. It should be a treat for connoisseurs of macabre comic book-styled gangster flicks, but should be a torture viewing for those who find such blood-splatter pointless and depraved. Take your pick, it at least was well-crafted even if the story line was mindless and the directing decidedly lazy. However you look at it, it surely is one sicko flick.

In the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, sadistic mob chief Anjo disappears and his sadistic protégé Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), sporting facial scars, bleached-blond hair and mouth piercings, tears up the underworld searching for his beloved boss (he can’t get over how his boss excited him by torturing him, which he calls love). When Kakihara discovers his boss is dead and the killer is the mysterious Ichi (Nao Omori), he gathers his mob to hunt him down at any cost. Even without proof, he acts to torture those who are suspect of helping Ichi–impaling one yakuza who was innocent and apologizing for his rush to judgment by cutting off his own tongue. When Kakihara’s gang is expelled from the syndicate, it sets off a bloody gang war.

As the plot further develops, we learn that ex-cop Jijii (Shinya Tsukamoto, Japanese director) wants revenge on the bad guys and after Ichi killed his parents, Jijii brainwashed him, destroyed his memories and through hypnosis made the nondescript nutty nerd, a waiter, believe he was bullied as a kid and is a cry-baby who now seeks vengeance by dressing up in a superhero outfit and killing the bad guys who remind him of his childhood bullies in a brutal way when he gets a hard-on. Jijii’s scheme works, as he turns the gangsters against one another and Ichi becomes a feared killing machine. It soon becomes apparent that Kakihara hunts Ichi for his own personal pleasure, so the now legendary killer can inflict on him the same kind of pain he received from Anjo–as it seems no else can satisfy him in S&M like the boss.

Between the gang wars and Ichi’s murder spree, there are numerous torture scenes and severed bodies (including one unfortunate sliced from top to bottom) and dumb slapstick comedy over the body parts falling in all directions. Though it was a high-octane energized film, its one track mind of violence left me less thrilled than numbed and bored. Such unsubstantial misogynistic doings are just not my cup of tea.