1 February 2017



I don't even know where to begin with this one. Honest to God, I don't. It's the most violent yakuza film I've ever seen in my life, and most yakuza films are pretty violent. It's still banned in some countries for the graphic depictions of said violence, and I definitely wouldn't recommend it for anyone under eighteen or anyone of a squeamish or nervous disposition.

Shall we take a look at the plot of this exceptionally controversial and, in places, stomach-turning and nerve-shredding movie? I think we will, gentle readers, but we'll proceed with caution. With extreme caution...

The plot can be reduced to a sentence or two. Rival yakuza gangs in early 'Noughties Japan come to blows when the boss of one of them suddenly disappears, presumed murdered. Or whacked, as the Italian-American mafia might say. 

A killer called- you guessed it- Ichi is a name that eventually springs to their collective minds, making this Ichi fella suddenly Japan's Most Wanted, if you get me. It's the complexity of the characters, however, that makes the film so stunningly watchable.

Kakihara, the enforcer for the missing (deceased?) boss Anjo, is without a doubt the most striking character, but not necessarily for the right reasons. I find him utterly repulsive to look at. His face is covered with hideous self-inflicted scars, especially round the mouth area. I nearly got sick when he nonchalantly blew cigarette smoke out of his mouth scars. He's pierced all over and is a sexual masochist of the most extreme order.

He lives for the pleasure that having pain inflicted on him gives him. He seems to prefer being beaten up by men, who can obviously do a better and more thorough job of it, but in a pinch a woman will do. In the film, he also inflicts a shocking act of torture on himself, though it's supposedly in the guise of an apology to a rival gang for having wrongly tortured one of their men.

Speaking of this mistaken act of torture, it's a tough scene to watch, involving suspension, non-consensual body piercing and scalding with the boiling water used to cook the tempura. Kakihara is rarely seen without his nasty, surgical-looking piercing needles about his person, and he uses 'em on more than one victim in the film. For someone like myself, who doesn't even have pierced ears, never mind anywhere else, these scenes are really hard to look at. I just don't dig piercing torture.

Kakihara is an extraordinary creature to look at, with his bleached blonde hair, scarred face and outlandishly brightly-coloured coats and tartan jackets. I'd liken him to a peacock except I'd be nearly certain that that would be offensive to peacocks...!

I don't suppose he can be blamed for his own sexual masochism, but this guy likes to dish it out as well as take it and it seems that no bridge is a bridge too far for him when it comes to torture. And he's not even Ichi the Killer...!

Just who is Ichi the Killer, anyway? I won't tell you too much about him for fear of spoiling it for you, but he's a young man whose mind is being controlled by a sinister older man, who implants false memories in Ichi's brain and uses them to get poor Ichi to kill for him. I reckon that poor Ichi was simple-minded and malleable to begin with, so it probably wasn't too hard for Jijii, the older man, to use him as a pawn in his own games.

I probably shouldn't say poor Ichi, as he's as sexually sadistic as Kakihara is masochistic. He gets off totally on the idea of women being raped and battered by men, and there's a lot of that in this film.

One woman in particular, a beautiful Chinese prostitute called Karen, is on the receiving end of some of this mysogynistic violence, as is the girlfriend of the missing yakuza boss. Ichi gets sexual excitement out of their mistreatment. So should we be feeling sorry for Ichi The Crybaby? I'm not sure. And just what does he think he looks like in that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-style killing outfit...? It's just plain daft!

My favourite character is probably the handsome Kaneko, a failed cop and bodyguard to the missing mob boss. He's not a good father to his little boy Takeshi, though, and they do say that those who live by the sword tend to die by the sword. 

Well, there's more swords than you can shake a stick at in this shockingly violent film. Well, there's at least one sword in it that I can remember anyway, and jolly sharp and pointy it looked too.

If you think you can handle such an outrageous smorgasbord of torture, sexual battery and extreme cruelty directed willy-nilly against both sexes, then by all means go right ahead and watch ICHI THE KILLER. When they screened it in the cinemas, though, they handed out sick bags to movie patrons. I'm just saying, is all...


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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