Takashi Miike’s classic yakuza gore-fest Ichi the Killer becomes available today in a gorgeous all-new 4K digital transfer special edition approved by Miike himself. The film can also be seen on big screens in select cities across the country. (Visit http://wellgousa.com/theatrical/ichi-the-killer for theater and ticket information.)
Based on Hideo Yamamoto’s manga series of the same name, Ichi the Killer stars Tadanobu Asano (47 Ronin, The Taste of Tea, Party 7) as Kakihara, a sado-masochistic yakuza who is manipulated into fighting other gangs in the wake of his boss's disappearance. The titular character, Ichi, is played by Nao Ômori (R100). The film also features actor/directors Shin'ya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo, the Iron Man and Tetsuo II: Body Hammer, Gemini, Nightmare Detective), and SABU (Non-Stop, Postman Blues, Monday).
I first saw Ichi at the Film Society of Lincoln Center's "Focus on New Japanese Cinema" film series early in 2002. In my review in Asian Cult Cinema (number 35, second quarter 2002, page 62), I likened watching it to "having a powerful multi-stage rocket shoved up your ass and ignited. Imagine an incredibly gory yakuza splatterfest, done with the exuberant energy of Hong Kong Cinema at its finest and state of the art special effects; you'll begin to have an idea of what Ichi the Killer is like."
Well, the special effects still hold up and my high opinion of the film hasn't changed after subsequent viewings, including Well Go's new Blu-ray edition.
In the 15th Anniversary Issue of Asian Cult Cinema magazine (1st quarter 2008), Ichi ranked #1 in the "ACC Readers' Poll of Guilty Pleasures" (page 62). In my column in that issue (page 34) I ranked it a very close 2nd to Aachi and Ssipak, the also fabulous and mind-blowing South Korean animated feature film.
The bottom line is that Ichi the Killer is a must have and this 4K Blu-ray really does the film justice.
-- Audio Commentary with director Takashi Miike & manga artist/writer Hideo Yamamoto
-- Still gallery
AsianCineFest Rating: 4 out of 4 stars; most highly recommended
[Note: This new release from Well Go USA has the title in black letters, as seen in the image at the top of this review. Previously the film was available from Tokyo Shock, with the title in white letters and a slightly different image of Tadanobu Asano.]