Ichi the Killer Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Directed by Takashi Miike
Written by Sakichi Satô
2001, 129 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on March 20th, 2018
Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara
Nao Ômori as Ichi
Shin’ya Tsikamoto as Jijii
Allen Sun as Karen
Sabu as Suzuki
Shun Sugata as Takayama
Tôru Tezuka as Fujiwara
Yoshiki Arizono as Nakazawa
Ichi is a good man, albeit one easily manipulated into murdering “bad men”. Bullied as a child, Ichi is encouraged to get revenge on people like those who wronged him. Gangsters, crime lords and other members of the city’s underbelly are all fair game to Ichi’s wrath. He doesn’t want to hurt anybody and is still paralyzed by the thought of violence, but he is really good at killing people. His uncontrollable rage once tapped is a force to be reckoned with. Headed on a collision course with Ichi is Kakihara, a sociopath looking to avenge his fallen boss. Kakihara thrives on violence and is pulling out all the stops to identify the killer. Can Ichi hold his own against this monster or will he simply be another body on the growing pile of corpses that lie in their wake?
Ichi the Killer (2001) – Jesus Christ, I don’t know where to begin. This is an incredible movie from a tireless director, Takashi Miike (Audition), a man who has recently completed his 100th feature film. Like many of his other works Ichi is an over-the-top thrill ride that simply does not stop delivering the goods. Hyper-violence is a language Miike is fluent in and he’s just getting warmed up. Fans of arterial spray and severed limbs will find a lot to like here as will anyone with a keen eye for scenes of torture. Based on the Japanese manga by Hideo Yamamoto, Ichi is a fantastic adaptation of the source material. Everything is presented a bit extreme and is frequently overwhelming but never exhausting, just quite visceral and highly entertaining.
Tadanobu Asano stars as Kakihara, the masochistic gangster always on the prowl for excitement. His cool nature is disturbing and his penchant for violence is equally upsetting. It is impossible to take your eyes off him whenever he appears on screen, as he truly is that commanding a presence. Our anti-hero Ichi is hardly a proper challenge for him and at times feels like an afterthought in his wake. Nao Ômori does a fine job as Ichi, but lacks the charisma of his cinematic counterpart. The supporting cast of villains is made up of cartoonish thugs and bullies who beat women and hurt everyone in their path. Ichi is no saint, but he stands on the far side of the moral spectrum from most of his targets.
Takashi Miike deserves every ounce of respect he has earned as a filmmaker over his lengthy career. He is an auteur capable of telling tough stories in a very distinct manner with an instantly recognizable visual style. He is so prolific that I would not be surprised to learn he has already completed his next feature in the time I have spent writing this review – or the time you have spent reading it. Miike excels with tales of the yakuza or more recently, samurai, and I look forward to tracking down every title I can find. In 2017, Ichi the Killer underwent a full 4K restoration and the results are stunning. If you feel like taking a wild ride through Japanese cinema, there’s no shortage of awesome options, but Miike is a great place to start.
Video and Audio:
Picture quality is never an issue with this gorgeous new transfer presented in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. This is the best I have ever seen this film look and I have collected more than a few DVD releases of this title over the years. Colors are vibrant and black levels are inky. There is a lot of fine detail on display here in fabrics and hair and flesh tones appear natural throughout.
There are two audio choices on this disc. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 track does a fine job keeping viewers informed of all the dialogue and action, but audiences will want to check out the more immersive DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix. There is some nice separation in audio cues and everything is clean and well-balanced throughout.
Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.
Ichi the Killer has received several special edition DVD releases over the years, many loaded with special features. Unfortunately 90% of those goodies are absent from this release, so hang onto your earlier discs kiddos.
The only real attraction here is an audio commentary from director Miike and manga writer Hideo Yamamoto. Recorded in 2003, the Japanese language track moves quickly and covers a lot of ground. This commentary has been around for a while, but its inclusion here is welcome. English subtitles can be accessed from the pop-up menu.
A stills gallery offers a series of images presented as a slideshow.
The original trailer is included alongside additional previews of titles available from the distributor.
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