About a year ago, the local theater chain ran a whole bunch of old
movies, as well as some that didn't see much play in American
theaters. I was able to catch Life of Brian, Versus, and most
memorably, Ichi the Killer. For a long time, I had heard about what a
terrifically screwed up movie it was, but I had never had the
opportunity to see for myself. Once I finally did see, it regretted
not checking it out sooner. The blood, the gore, the crazy (literally)
characters, a real whizz-bang movie altogether, and let me tell you,
nothing quite compares to seeing it on the big screen.
More importantly, though, I knew after seeing it that I would be doing
a mini-mock about it. These things take time, of course, and so I
thought I'd give it a year or so before starting work on such a
big project. That year has finally passed, and so I bring you... Ichi the
The first scene is a yakuza-owned apartment. The first character you
meet, oddly enough, is not the title character. It's the sad-looking
fellow standing above the bald guy. He's Kaneko, the bodyguard of the
head of this particular gang, Anjo, and he's feeling a bit anxious
about not being allowed to watch over his charge. The other gangsters
insist that the boss needs a little privacy when he's making time with
a lady friend. He accepts their judgment, and surely nothing will go
Scene two opens with a prostitute getting punched in the face by her
pimp. It seems he forgot the first ruling of shopkeeping: Don't damage
your merchandise. He continues beating her while she squeals like a
pair of Nikes scraping along a basketball court. After giving her a
thorough thrashing, he proceeds to rape her. Which I have decided not
to make into a gif. Just use your imagination. Anyway, the romance is
disrupted when the pimp spots someone peeping through the balcony
window. Upon investigation, he finds no one, but he does find a clue
that indicates someone was indeed peepin':
That's a mean thing to do to a houseplant. Still, it doesn't much
bother the pimp, and he shuts the door and goes back to what he was
doing before. It's a hell of a way to introduce the title of the film,
that's for sure. By the way, in case you were wondering, director
Takashi Miike confirms that yes, it was real man gravy. I would not
have liked to have been a PA on set that day.
Cut to a van holding three guys in shiny, quasi-futuristic outfits.
They're staking out a nearby apartment, and the man in the passenger's
seat is doing his best to keep the other two on task. After a few
minutes, they get the call they were waiting for, which consists of
someone weeping into the phone, and they head on up to the apartment
in question. As they waited, one of them casually remarks over his
cell phone that, "Lately, we only go in to clean up after Ichi." In
this case, he was not speaking metaphorically.
There's blood everywhere. There's so much, in fact, that one of the
men slips and lands in a pile of viscera. Truly, these cleaners have
their work cut out for them. The one who fell asks the leader what
kind of man this "Ichi" is, but the leader has no answer for him.
Instead, he says, "let's get started," and they do the best cleaning
I've ever seen.
I'm not sure how long it took, but still... This brings us to the next
character introduction. The guy with his back to the camera is, if you
ask me, the real star of the show, as evidenced by the fact that his
face graces the DVD cover. His name is Kakihara, and he's curious as
to why his boss and around 3 million yen (about $26,000 or 281,911
pesos) have vanished without a trace. The blame falls squarely on the
greasy-looking guy for telling Kaneko to leave the boss alone, and
neither he nor Kaneko have any idea who got to the boss or to where
they may have gone.
A seemingly anemic representative from the Sanko syndicate, the group
syndicate that controls the Anjo gang, shows up to assess the damages,
and is apparently timing himself, as he brings with him an hourglass.
He thinks that Anjo must have taken the money and made off with his
girl, but Kakihara assures him that his boss wouldn't do something
like that, and that it was most likely the work of an enemy gang. The
sickly guy points out that the other gangs are mad only at Kakihara,
for what we can only imagine. Despite this, Kakihara swears that Anjo
is alive, and vows to find him.
By the way, in case you hadn't figured it out, Anjo was the
disemboweled corpse that the three cleaners were taking care of.
The search begins with Anjo's girl, Karen. If anyone would know the
whereabouts of the missing boss, it would be her. An interesting thing
about Karen is that as she talks, she goes back and forth between
speaking Japanese and English, which can really throw off the
subtitles. When Kakihara and the gang find her, she's regaling one of
her clients with the story of how she strangled her neighbor's dog.
She claims to have no idea where the boss might have gotten to, and
that he may simply have been killed, but Kakihara assures her that the
boss must be alive, and that he's just waiting to be found.
As they talk, Kakihara notices a rowdy party on the other side of the
room. The party in question is, coincidentally enough, composed of the
three cleaners from before. It turns out that the leader of the three,
Jijii, is an informant. Kakihara assures him that if he has any
information regarding Anjo's disappearance that he will be well
rewarded. Of course, he has no idea that Jijii mopped up after Ichi's
encounter with Anjo, and so the two of them part ways with a pleasant
Come on, Kakihara, how can you trust a smile like that?
Sly grins aside, it's about time we met the title character of the
movie, don't you think?
Here he is at his day job. Unfortunately, the customers are mad that
he brought them the wrong drink. He apologizes profusely and heads
back into the kitchen where his boss is waiting to give him a pep
talk. Just kidding. In reality, his boss puts a knife in front of him
and tells Ichi to kill himself. Being told by your boss to kill
yourself turns out to be quite stressful, and Ichi starts crying. The
manager reprimands him, saying that, "I'll only forgive you when
you're dead." Geez, tough room.
Back at the gang headquarters, the search for Anjo is not going well.
With no leads to go on, it looks like they'll just have to chalk this
one up to the actions of a rival gang. Just then, Jijii shows up with
an interesting rumor: Anjo may have been kidnapped by Suzuki of the
Funaki gang, another gang working under the same syndicate as the Anjo
gang. It just so happens that Suzuki is angry at Kakihara for cutting
him out of an adult film racket, and has allegedly been bad-mouthing
Kakihara behind his back, even going so far as to say that Kakihara
had a crush on Anjo. This draws a nervous laugh from Kakihara, and he
orders Takayama to bring Suzuki in for... questioning. Once he's gone,
he tells Jijii to go buy some shrimp. For what, you must be wondering?
He's going to make some nice tempura and have a civilized, gentlemanly
chat with Suzuki regarding Anjo's disappearance.... Nah, I'm just
kidding. He does want to ask Suzuki about the incident, but he has a
unique way of holding Suzuki's attention.
He strings Suzuki up from the ceiling on an array of hooks going
through the skin on his back. "You look fantastic, Mr. Suzuki," he
remarks. Not on to waste time, however, Kakihara dispenses with the
pleasantries and gets right down to business.
After posing the question of Anjo's whereabouts once, Kakihara begins
sticking Suzuki in a number of places with a large knitting needle,
taking his time with each stab and wiggling the needle around as he
goes. Suzuki admits that he was angry about losing his video racket to
Kakihara, but that he doesn't know anything about Anjo's
disappearance. Unfortunately for him, that wasn't the answer that
Kakihara was looking for.
He grabs the pot full of hot oil and pours it on Suzuki's tattooed
back, or more accurately, his formerly tattooed back. Severe oil burns
can wreak considerable havoc on skin art. He pours the remaining oil
onto Suzuki's head, which does little to improve his complexion.
In another apartment, two of the cleaners, Kano and Long, are watching
the events unfold via a hidden camera. Kano explains that he installed
the camera so that Jijii could keep an eye on the gang, and that he
used to be a member of the Anjo gang, but that he had had plastic
surgery done and so he doubted anyone would recognize him. Long poses
the question, "why did you choose this face?" to which Kano responds,
With no information forthcoming, Kakihara decides to go to work on
Suzuki's "little one." Before he can, however, the Funakis gang shows
up and their boss is just a bit miffed that one of their members is
being pierced and fried. He asks, "what the fuck do you think you're
doing?" and Kakihara's response is simply, "just a little torture."
Things get a little tense after that, and Takayama steps in to say
that they received a tip that Suzuki was involved in Anjo's
disappearance. He tries to point out the tipster...
But Jijii managed to escape in the commotion. It looks like they'll be
searching for two people now. The Funaki boss glares at Kakihara, and
Kakihara hangs his in repentance. Or maybe he's just admiring his own
handiwork, it's hard to say.
Back on Ichi's end of the story, the submissive psychotic has employed
the services of the prostitute you saw getting roughed up at the
beginning of the film. It turns out that her bruised, distended face
is quite a turn-on for the young man. When she tells him about how her
pimp beat her up, he asks, "shall I kill him for you?" She ponders the
question for a moment, but before she can answer, Ichi grabs her head
and forces it back into his lap. And who said chivalry was dead?
Meanwhile, negotiations are underway to make up for Kakihara's Q&A
session with Suzuki. The Funaki boss demands the adult film business,
but that would leave the Anjo gang with no means to make back the
money that disappeared with Anjo. Luckily, Kakihara has a better idea
on how he can make amends...
He ties a handkerchief around his neck, grabs a sword, and sticks out
his tongue. The other men in the room look on in confusion, but it
dawns on them what Kakihara, unasked, plans to do.
What follows is a truly grotesque (and I have to admit, kind of funny)
sequence that leaves even the hardened yakuza men uneasy. Kakihara
slowly cuts off the tip of his own tongue and, upon completion,
presents the tip to the thoroughly nauseated Funaki boss. It takes a
little urging on Kakihara's part, but the boss eventually accepts the
tongue tip from Kakihara's blood-covered hand.
Even better than that, shortly after completing the gruesome task,
Kakihara receives a call on his cellphone. Which he takes. He spits up
a goodly amount of blood, and he doesn't quite form every letter, but
he still manages to take the call. The entire display proves too much
for the syndicate representative, and he passes out once Kakihara
leaves to continue the search for Anjo.