Ichi the Killer is like no movie you have ever seen. It is an enigma, a force and a statement as powerful as any movie I have seen. Brought to celluloid by the Japanese mastermind Takashi Miike (Audition, Fudoh), Ichi is a movie that has caused many heated discussions and debates, relevant to both the film's content and the intent behind its making. Since the movie is not a literal translation, nor anywhere close to becoming a reality, I'll give you my take on the events, themes and underlying messages.
We start out by watching a woman getting violently raped by her pimp in his apartment. We see a cut scene to a young man standing in the rain, he then appears outside on the terrace of the apartment, diligently watching the rape. Meet Ichi, "the one". He makes a noise during the rape and the pimp steps outside to see who it was, only to find a puddle of semen underneath his fern plant. We then cut to a van where three guys are awaiting a phone call. One is shooting up, while the others bicker about phone calls and their roles in tonight's job. The phone rings, and all you hear on the other end is crying. Meet Ichi, and Ichi has just finished his job. The three exit the van and begin to undertake the arduous task of "cleaning", or erasing the crime scene of evidence after a murder.
The man murdered was Boss Anjo, a powerful crime lord in the Yakuza Syndicate, and the boss of Kakihara, the token sadist. Kakihara is the man pictured on the front of all Ichi releases, and is notorious for his role in the movie as being one twisted mutherfucker. Kakihara believes that his boss has been kidnapped, and he is determined to find him by any means necessary. I would like to interject here and give background on the main characters of the movie prior to any further synopsis. Understanding the characters and their roles is essential to grasping the ideals behind Ichi, thus making the viewing a lot more enjoyable.
Ichi is a young man, early twenties, that has been emotionally scarred by witnessing a rape when he was in high school. The emotional scars that run through Ichi are due to his sexual impulses that he gets when he sees violence. Ichi associates violence with love, and gains a sense of sexual satisfaction through killing. He is contracted by a man named Jijii, the mastermind behind the slaying of Boss Anjo.
Jijii is the man responsible for making Ichi the Killer, by means of hypnosis. Midway through the movie we learn that Jijii has been tricking Ichi his whole life into believing that he has been bullied, and that is the reasoning behind his sexual disorders. He tells Ichi that the "bullies" must be killed, and that Ichi must eliminate all of the bullies in the world. Jijii was cast out from the Anjo gang and plans on exacting his revenge on the entire syndicate.
Kakihara is a sado-masochist working for the Anjo clan. He is second in line only to Boss Anjo, and heads the clan during his Boss' disappearance. Kakihara finds love through abuse from others, which is why he is so desperate to find Boss Anjo. Kakihara loves Anjo (non-sexually) because of the beatings he receives. Once Kakihara finds out that Ichi is the one behind his Boss' disappearance he becomes ecstatic at the though of being beaten by Ichi, and thus develops a love/ admiration for him.
So now we are at the point where Kakihara goes on a rampage searching for his missing boss. We see that Kakihara enjoys inflicting pain on others as much as receiving it, detailed by a plethora of nasty torture scenes. All the while, Ichi is being contracted to systematically eliminate members of the Anjo clan. Ichi's method of killing is pretty damn cool, with a wicked blade springing out of the heel of his Nike's. Ichi offs some people in incredible fashion, either cutting them in half, disemboweling them, or slitting their throats. We see, however, that Ichi is a torn man, often denying the notion that killing is good and beneficial. Jijii constantly reassures Ichi by telling him that the people he kills are bullies, and that he will prevent anything like he experienced from happening again if he eliminates all of the bullies. Ichi cuts his way through the Anjo clan and ultimately must eliminate Kakihara. The final showdown between Kakihara takes place on the Syndicate rooftop, where we see the demise of both Kakihara and Ichi's character, physically and mentally.
Beneath the gore and humor associated with Ichi lies an incredible theme base that touches on all aspects of society, most prevalent of love and pain. Kakihara's character often illustrates the relationship between love and pain, as he constantly searches for the one man he "loves" while enduring great amounts of pain. In Ichi's case, he murders when he feels threatened, a defensive reaction gained by the trauma that Jijii causes while he's constantly lying to him.
You see, Jijii is the mastermind behind the syndicate's demise, and he focuses the majority of his hatred towards the Anjo clan. He lies to everyone around him and convinces them that what he says is their reality. He initially taught Kakihara that pain is love, as well as associating death with sexual pleasure for Ichi. Jijii is the ultimate puppet master, and manipulates the whole cast to have his plan succeed. But what is Jijii's ultimate fate? And what price does he pay for his retribution?
If you can't tell by now, I really liked this movie. Not just for the colorful deaths and captivating story, but because the interpretation of the movie made (and still makes) me think. The point that I'm trying to ultimately make is this - how much pain will someone endure for love, and how much will one go through to get what they want.