Ichi the Killer (Korshiya Ichi, 2001) is a tremendously witty, well-acted, grotesque film that attempts to push the envelope of bad taste & violent filmmaking.
It is perhaps comparable to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994) in making exploitation into a high art. It appears to be director Takashi Miike's best known film in the west, & easy to see why it would be. It's a true masterpiece of the grotesque.
It has not one but two of the finest psycho characters ever in cinema. First is the titular Ichi (Nao Omori) whose chaotic mind is full of grief, regret, shame, guilt, & the desire to hack up all the world's "bullies" & a few women while he's at it.
And second is bleach-blond Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), the super-bully sadomasochist with Dr. Sardonicus smile, who loves to torture others but whose stronger desire is to finally find someone strong enough to become his torturer.
Based on Hideo Yamamoto's bestselling manga (comic book novel), the film adaptation of Ichi the Killer presents the gangster world rendered as operatic perversion.
The masochistic sadist Kakihara & the guilt-ridden sadist Ichi pursue their separate & coinciding vicious vendettas, all aimed at the culminating Battle of the Happy Psychopaths.
It is blackly comic but poker-faced throughout & will be very disturbing to anyone not used to the level of bloodiness typical of Japanese cinema to begin with, this amped up by Miike.
I wouldn't say that just anyone could stand it, but there is no question but that there is something artistic here that makes it much, much more than simpleminded exploitation for fans of sick cinema. Though it's all that too.
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