Archive for the Yakuza Films Category

QUICK CUTS: WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE GANGSTER?

Posted in 1930s Movies, 1970s Movies, 1980s Movies, 2013, Asian Gangster Films, Classic Films, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Crime Films, Cult Movies, Fugitives, Gangsters!, Garrett Cook Articles, Jenny Orosel Columns, LL Soares Reviews, Michael Arruda Reviews, Movie History, Nick Cato Reviews, Quick Cuts, Tough Guys!, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , , , on January 18, 2013 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS: FAVORITE MOVIE GANGSTERS
Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Garrett Cook, Jenny Orosel, and Colleen Wanglund

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome everyone to another edition of QUICK CUTS.

Last Friday, January 11, the slick looking gangster movie GANGSTER SQUAD opened in theaters, starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Sean Penn. So, for today ‘s QUICK CUTS column, we asked our panel of Cinema Knife Fighters the all-important question:  Who’s your favorite movie gangster?

GARRETT COOK: My favorite is one of the first and the best: Edward G. Robinson as Rico in LITTLE CAESAR (1931), an angry but vulnerable man constantly overcompensating. He’s both ruthless and heartbreaking.

Edward G. Robinson in the role that made him a star - Rico in LITTLE CAESAR (1931).

Edward G. Robinson in the role that made him a star – Rico in LITTLE CAESAR (1931).

L.L. SOARES:  Good one, Garrett. I like LITTLE CAESAR a lot, too. A really underrated movie.

My two favorite movie gangsters were both played by James Cagney.

The first is Tom Powers from THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931). Whether he’s pushing grapefruit halves in dame’s faces or starting a gang war, he’s still the gold standard everyone else should be compared to. And the movie still has one of the most haunting endings ever. Boy, they sure knew how to create spooky images back in the 1930s.

The notorious "grapefruit in the kisser" scene from PUBLIC ENEMY (1931). Another gangster classic.

The notorious “grapefruit in the kisser” scene from PUBLIC ENEMY (1931). Another gangster classic.

The other one is Cody Jarrett, the mother-obsessed psychopath gangster from 1949’s WHITE HEAT. “Made it, Ma. Top of the world!” Everyone remember that one. My choices showcase Cagney’s earliest gangster with a later one.

JENNY OROSEL:  I’ve never been a big gangster movie fan, but the one I do remember liking was BUGSY MALONE (1976). Sure, looking back, it was pretty horrible. But it had the most epic pie fight ever committed to film!

A scene from the pie fight in BUGSY MALONE (1976).

A scene from the pie fight in BUGSY MALONE (1976).

NICK CATO:  My fave gangster is Paulie in GOODFELLAS (1990), played by Paul Sorvino. As the head of his clan, he got to sit back, fry sausages, slice garlic, and sip the best wine while his men did all the dirty work. And no one made a better ” sangwich” than him. He was THE MAN.

Paul Sorvino as Paulie in GOODFELLAS (1990).

Paul Sorvino as Paulie in GOODFELLAS (1990).

L.L. SOARES: I’m a big fan of GOODFELLAS, too. One of the best gangster movies ever. But I prefer Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci (as Jenry Hill and Tommy DeVito, respectively). I’ve never been a big Paul Sorvino fan for some reason. DeNiro is really good in this one, too.

COLLEEN WANGLUND:  Okay here’s my answer:

So I figure the first names that would come to mind are from American gangster films. Well since I am the Geisha, my favorite gangsters all come from Asian films.

1. Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano) from ICHI THE KILLER (2001) directed by Takashi Miike. Kakihara is seriously one of the sickest gangsters I’ve ever seen on film.

So crazy he's scary - Kikihara from ICHI THE KILLER (2001).

So crazy he’s scary – Kikihara from ICHI THE KILLER (2001).

2. Matsunaga (Toshiro Mifune) from the film DRUNKEN ANGEL (1948) directed by Akira Kurosawa. He is somewhat sympathetic character but a hardened gangster just the same.

3. Lau Kin-ming (Andy Lau) from INFERNAL AFFAIRS (2002) directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. Lau’s character manages to infiltrate the police department in Hong Kong for YEARS without ever getting caught. That’s pretty awesome.

L.L. SOARES:  Excellent choices! I forgot how great a long of Japanese and Hong Kong gangstgers are. I would also add Takeshi Kitano (also known as Beat Takeshi), who has played several Japanese gangsters over the years, in films he directed and films by others. My favorite gangster/Yakuza role of his was probably in his 1993 film, SONATINE.

"Beat" Takeshi in SONATINE (1993).

“Beat” Takeshi in SONATINE (1993).

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Wow, you’re really into the topic this time around!

L.L. SOARES: I sure am. I love classic gangster movies. They haven’t made a good one in awhile.

MICHAEL ARRUDA: Well, my favorite movie gangster would be Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER movies, specifically Parts 1 & 2.  Sure, his most famous scene is the “Fredo, you broke my heart” scene, but my favorite comes in Part 1,  where he’s confronted by his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) and she wants to know if he had his brother–in-law killed, and he says he won’t discuss the family business with her.  He then stops and says, “Just this once.  You can ask me just this once.”  So she asks him again, and he says, “No, I didn’t have him killed,” and of course, he’s lying through his teeth.  Great scene.

Not the most violent gangster on screen, but Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone is one of the coldest gangsters on screen.  Ice runs through his veins.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in THE GODFATHER.

L.L. SOARES: Another excellent choice. Everyone in the first two GODFATHER films is pretty terrific, but you’re right, Pacino might be the best one of all. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t at least mention Pacino’s other iconic gangster role, as Tony Montana in 1983’s SCARFACE. Some people have complained Pacino is too over-the-top in the role, but I still say it’s another iconic role that most movie gangster movies these days will be compared to. Besides, I really love SCARFACE.

Al Pacino's other iconic gangster role - Tony Montana in SCARFACE (1983).

Al Pacino’s other iconic gangster role – Tony Montana in SCARFACE (1983).

MICHAEL ARRUDA: And that’s it for tonight’s QUICK CUTS.  Thanks for joining us everybody!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Garrett Cook, Jenny Orosel, Colleen Wanglund and Nick Cato

The Geisha of Gore’s TOP MOVIES OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Art Movies, Asian Horror, Best Of Lists, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Gangsters!, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Martial Arts, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by knifefighter

The Geisha of Gore’s Top Movies of 2012
By Colleen Wanglund

I don’t go to see new movies very often…in fact it’s rare.  Most of my theater-going experiences involve midnight screenings of older and classic films.  This past year, however, I did go to quite a few new movie screenings, mostly because of the New York Asian Film Festival this past summer.  Anyway, here are the movies I loved from 2012, in no particular order.

Vulgaria-Poster

VULGARIA (Hong Kong 2012) A truly laugh-out-loud comedy starring Chapman To about what one producer went through to get his porn film made, VULGARIA was an opening-night screening at Lincoln Center during the New York Asian Film Festival.  It included a Q&A with the film’s writer and director, Pang Ho-Cheung, who informed the sold-out crowd that the movie is based on true events.  I was very impressed with the fact that nothing was lost in the subtitled translation.

The_Raid_Redemption

THE RAID (Indonesia 2011) This film didn’t screen in the US until 2012 so it counts.  Written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, THE RAID stars Iko Uwais as Rama, an idealistic young cop who is along for a raid against a major drug lord’s stronghold—a whole apartment building full of (mostly) criminals.  The film is full of non-stop action, mostly of the martial arts variety.  It’s beautifully choreographed and there are a few nice surprises thrown into the story.

rabbithorror

TORMENTED (Japan 2011) Written and directed by Takashi Shimizu of JU-ON fame, TORMENTED (also known as RABBIT HORROR 3D) is a follow-up to his film THE SHOCK LABYRINTH (2009), but is not a true sequel.  The film tells the story of Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima) whose younger brother has been mysteriously transported to another world by a giant bunny, and how she tries to save him.  I know it sounds weird, but I found it quite entertaining.  I also understand now how a giant stuffed rabbit can actually be scary.  To me it’s worth the viewing just for Christopher Doyle’s cinematography. TORMENTED is another film that did not make its debut in the US until 2012.

Nameless Gangster 4

NAMELESS GANGSTER (Korea 2012) This film stars the legendary (and one of my favorites) actor, Choi Min-sik, as a corrupt customs official who enters into the world of drug gangs almost by accident.  Written and directed by Yun Jong-bin, NAMELESS GANGSTER is an amazing gangster film that takes an unflinching look at corruption and nepotism in various levels of government and how they deal with the gangs that sell illegal drugs.  Choi is superb as a man who, regardless of the loyalty shown him, is only interested in personal gain and saving his own sorry ass.

444

4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (USA 2011) I’ve included this movie because I saw its theatrical debut in 2012—which included a Q&A with famed cult film writer and director Abel Ferrara and star Shanyn Leigh.  4:44 follows artist couple Skye (Leigh) and Cisco (Willem Dafoe) during the last day of life on Earth.  It is a quiet yet powerful apocalyptic film that did, in fact, terrify me.  I really loved the subtly that Ferrara uses to tell this story and the fact that it elicited such an emotional response from me.

© Copyright 2013 by Colleen Wanglund

The Geisha of Gore Attends THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL and JAPAN CUTS 2012!

Posted in 2012, 60s Movies, Anime, Asian Horror, Atomic Accidents, Based on a True Story, Cannibalism, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Cop Movies, Film Festivals, Gangsters!, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Kung Fu!, Samurais, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , , , on August 29, 2012 by knifefighter

THE GEISHA OF GORE Takes On:
THE NEW YORK ASIAN FILM FESTIVAL AND JAPAN CUTS – 2012
By Colleen Wanglund

Once again I, your Geisha of Gore, attended this year’s New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) and the Japan Cuts film festival, although this time as a legitimate member of the press. During the month of July I experienced some very cool films from all over Southeast Asia and in varying genres—not just the horror that I’m so overwhelmingly fond of. The NYAFF, which is put together by Subway Cinema and The Film Society of Lincoln Center, just celebrated its eleventh year, and it’s bigger than ever. Japan Cuts is a festival of contemporary Japanese cinema held every year at The Japan Society in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan and is in its sixth consecutive year. NYAFF movies are shown at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, The Japan Society (where the two festivals overlap and support each other) and sometimes a midnight movie at the IFC Center. Both film festivals are run by some very cool people, who welcomed me into the fold officially this past July…and that was due to the help of my wingman from another website, Stan Glick, who knows more about Asian films than most people I’ve met.

Opening night was a blast, as Stan, fellow Knife Fighter Nick Cato and I saw the comedy VULGARIA (Hong Kong, 2012) about a producer who is desperately trying to get his porn film made—an ambitious remake of a Shaw Brothers 1970’s sexploitation classic. Not only does the movie get made, but the producer ends up creating a viral marketing campaign that makes his movie a huge hit. The movie’s director Pang Ho-cheung took questions from the sold-out audience, telling us that the film is actually based on true events—which makes it that much funnier. It was filmed in just twelve days on an extremely low budget, and the script was written by almost everyone involved as it went along! It’s a raunchy comedy without actually being visibly raunchy or vulgar, which is quite the feat, considering the subject matter. I truly laughed so hard I cried. VULGARIA stars Chapman To, who starred in INFERNAL AFFAIRS (2002), INFERNAL AFFAIRS 2 (2003), and TRIPLE TAP (2010), and has had a long career in Hong Kong cinema. There is also the very interesting character of Popping Cherry, played by Dada Chan, who will do just about anything to get into the movies. How she got her name is priceless.

VULGARIA (2012)

Afterwards, everyone was invited into the theater’s gallery where we enjoyed some complimentary Kirin beer to celebrate the opening of NYAFF. The next afternoon I was lucky enough to participate in a press conference with Choi Min-sik, star of OLDBOY (2003), I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) and his latest, NAMELESS GANGSTER (2012). NYAFF held a four-film mini retrospective of Choi’s films, including OLDBOY, NAMELESS GANGSTER, FAILAN (2001), and CRYING FIST (2005). Choi Min-sik is one of the biggest stars in South Korea and for good reason—the man is a brilliant actor. I was thrilled to meet him and be able to ask him at least one question during the conference.

Below is a brief synopsis of some of the other films that screened at NYAFF and Japan Cuts.

NAMELESS GANGSTER (Korea, 2012)—Choi Min-sik stars as a crooked customs inspector who is about to go to prison, but finds a stash of confiscated cocaine and ends up a gangster, using his family connections to stay in power for quite some time. When he faces his impending downfall, he has no problem betraying some of those same family members who helped his rise in the Korean underworld. The movie is brilliant and if you get a chance, go see it!

NAMELESS GANGSTER (2012)

NASI LEMAK 2.0 (Malaysia, 2011)—Directed by and starring rapper Namewee, NASI LEMAK 2.0 is a comedy surrounding food….namely the national dish of Malaysia. At its core, it is about ethnic division in the country using kung fu, Bollywood dance numbers, outrageous stereotypes and surreal comedy in an attempt to get across a message of unity. Not my favorite of the festival movies, but funny and entertaining, nonetheless.

THE KING OF PIGS (Korea, 2011)—An animated film employing washed-out, muted colors and harsh lines to set the tone, THE KING OF PIGS tells the story of the effects of bullying on young school boys and how it continues to affect their adult lives. It is at times a brutal and unflinching look at how class plays a role in Korean society. Directed by Yeun Sang-ho, the film isn’t the most graceful anime I’ve ever seen, but it is based on some of Yeun’s own experiences while in middle school and displays its darkness effectively.

KING OF THE PIGS (2011)

HARD ROMANTICKER (Japan, 2011)—Written and directed by Gu Su-yeon and based on Gu’s own childhood growing up in a Korean ghetto, the film is a hard-ass look at loner Gu (Shota Matsuda—whose father was a star of 70s yakuza flicks) who causes trouble and attempts to elude payback among different gangs. He’s also hounded by a cop looking for Gu to rat out others, but just feeds the cop info on low-level drug users instead. HARD ROMANTICKER is fast, furious and violent, but an entertaining film for those who like the gangster genre.

ASURA (Japan, 2012)—Another animated film, ASURA is about a young boy surviving as a cannibal in war-torn Medieval Japan, who is then befriended by a young woman who shows the boy compassion. The Lord of the village is determined to find and kill the boy and things get dangerous for everyone involved. The film uses an animation process that involves 3D characters over a 2D painted background. The result is a beautiful watercolor effect with an amazing depth. The story is brutal and bloody, but heartbreaking as well.

NO MAN’S ZONE (Japan, 2012)—A moving documentary that was filmed by a crew that basically wandered around the 20-kilometer exclusion zone affected by the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear reactors. It is a few months after the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster, but some of the small villages and towns have yet to be evacuated. It is both heartbreaking and infuriating to see the devastation and the lack of response by the government.

NO MAN’S ZONE (2012)

TORMENTED (Japan, 2011)—Directed by Takashi Shimizu, Christopher Doyle was Director of Photography on this follow-up to THE SHOCK LABYRINTH (Japan, 2009). While not a sequel, TORMENTED (orig. title: RABBIT HORROR 3D) contains some of the same elements and places as THE SHOCK LABYRINTH and a scene from SHOCK is included at one point in TORMENTED. It’s a huge departure from Shimizu’s famous JU-ON films, but a fantastic effort.

HENGE (Japan, 2012)—Directed by Hajime Ohata, HENGE, which translates to metamorphosis, is a short film that clocks in at just around 54 minutes. It is a disturbing film about a man who suffers violent seizures and speaks in an alien language. Over time the man transforms into a bloodthirsty insectoid creature, but his wife stands by her man, even luring victims to the house for him to feed on. It’s gory and worth a watch, IF you can find it. Unfortunately it’s tough for shorts to get decent distribution deals. The film was shown with two other short films as part of “The Atrocity Exhibition.”

LET’S-MAKE-THE-TEACHER-HAVE-A-MISCARRIAGE CLUB (Japan, 2012)—Another short film that was part of The Atrocity Exhibition, this disturbing film follows a group of middle-school girls led by the psychologically damaged Mizuki. Mizuki decides that the girls’ pregnant teacher is dirty and her pregnancy must be ended as a punishment for having had sex. What makes this film even more disturbing is that it is based on true events. This is a fantastic film that will unfortunately not see a distribution deal because of its length, which is an even 60 minutes.

And these were just the films I got to see during the festivals!

Other wonderful films that were screened during the two festivals and must be seen, if you haven’t already (and seriously, what are you waiting for?) included OLDBOY (Korea, 2003), the cult classic starring Choi Min-sik; the bleak horror film GOKE: BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (Japan, 1968); INFERNAL AFFAIRS 1 and 2 (Hong Kong, 2002/2003), the far superior original versions of Martin Scorsese’s THE DEPARTED (2006); FIVE FINGERS OF DEATH (Hong Kong, 1972), one of the best kung fu films ever made and one that established the genre; ACE ATTORNEY (Japan, 2012) based on a popular video game and directed by Takashi Miike; THIRTEEN ASSASSINS (Japan, 2010) a samurai film, also directed by Takashi Miike; and ZOMBIE ASS:TOILET OF THE DEAD (Japan, 2011) the latest offering from Sushi Typhoon and directed by Noboru Iguchi.

The Japanese classic horror film, GOKE, THE BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL (1968)

NYAFF and Japan Cuts combined to showcase new movies, classic films, special guests, and parties. There were almost 100 films screened between the two festivals, and they get bigger each year. Some of this year’s guests included Donnie Yen, Choi Min-sik, Michelle Chen, Yoon Jin-seo, and Jeff Lau. I’ve looked forward to the festivals every year since I first began attending over three years ago. Samuel Jamier is the head programmer for Japan Cuts and would love to see the festival become one of the biggest showcase for Japanese films of all genres in North America. Some of the cool people involved with the New York Asian Film Festival are Ted Geoghegan, Grady Hendrix, Rufus de Rham, and Goran Topalovic.

© Copyright 2012 by Colleen Wanglund
LINK TO PREVIOUS COLUMNS:

The Geisha Reviews OLDBOY and Chan-Wook Park’s Vengeance Trilogy

The Geisha Reviews I SAW THE DEVIL

The Geisha of Gore reviews GOKE, BODY SNATCHER FROM HELL

ICHI THE KILLER!

Posted in 2010, Extreme Movies, Foreign Films, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Gore!, Japanese Horror, Takashi Miike Films, VIOLENCE!, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , , , , on November 10, 2010 by knifefighter

THE GEISHA OF GORE REVIEWS
ICHI THE KILLER
by Colleen Wanglund

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Takashi Miike.  For me he’s right up there with Hitchcock, Leone, Kurosawa, and Kubrick—easily one of the greatest directors ever—a cinema genius.  At fifty years old, Miike has directed over seventy films covering everything from family-friendly movies such as THE GREAT YOKAI WAR (2005) to the violent yakuza (Japanese gangster) film DEAD OR ALIVE (1999).  He’s even tried his hand at westerns with SUKIYAKI WESTERN DJANGO (2007) and horror with his short “BOX” in THREE….EXTREMES (2004), ONE MISSED CALL (2003) and AUDITION (1999).  In 2005 Miike was invited to direct an episode of MASTERS OF HORROR, a series of hour-long shows for the Showtime cable channel, each done by a different director and supposedly free of restrictions.  Miike’s installment, entitled IMPRINT, was deemed so controversial that it has yet to air in the United States.  Thankfully it was released to video so it can be seen here….and if you haven’t seen it yet, what the hell are you waiting for?!?  Many of Takashi Miike’s films have become known for their depictions of extreme violence and odd sexual behavior, and this has led to his almost cult-like following in the West.

One of Miike’s most controversial films is 2001’s ICHI THE KILLER.  It’s sadomasochistic, misogynistic, and bloody as hell—and that’s why I love it so much.  Based on a manga by Hideo Yamamoto, ICHI tells the story of a yakuza clan whose boss, Anjo, has gone missing along with 300 million yen (equal to about 3.75 million U.S. dollars) and his girlfriend.  Kakihara (Tadanobu Asano), Anjo’s right-hand-man, will stop at nothing to find Anjo and the missing money.  Of course Anjo and his girlfriend are dead—his murder is among the opening scenes.  Anjo’s murder is an extremely bloody affair, committed by a strange man in a suit with the number 1 emblazoned on the back (Ichi in Japanese for the number one).  The apartment is covered in blood—floor, walls and ceiling—and one of the clean-up crew takes a tumble in a steaming pile of intestines.  When Kakihara goes to the apartment looking for clues, it’s spotless—the blood and bodies have been removed along with the money.  As word gets around to the other families, an informant shows up claiming that a man named Suzuki from a rival family was bragging that he was responsible for Anjo’s disappearance.  That informant is Jijii, an outcast from the yakuza played brilliantly by Shinya Tsukamoto (director of the TETSUO trilogy).  Among the families there exists an agreement that basically sets up boundaries so everyone make can make money, although that doesn’t mean spats don’t break out from time to time.  Kakihara sends his men to get Suzuki and in a scene that even I found hard to watch, Kakihara hangs the man from the ceiling by hooks through Suzuki’s skin.  To add to the torture, when Kakihara doesn’t get the answers he’s looking for, he douses the man in hot oil that he had just used to make shrimp tempura.  I did mention sadomasochism, right?   Suzuki’s boss comes to see what’s happening, but when he’s told of the info they got from Jijii—surprise, surprise—Jijii is gone.  Upon learning he made a mistake, Kakihara goes to Suzuki’s boss to formally beg forgiveness.  This is another very disturbing scene but I won’t spoil it.  I want you to be just as uncomfortable watching it as I was.

Meanwhile we are introduced to Ichi played by Nao Omori.  Ichi is a very meek individual who may also be a bit slow mentally, although nothing is ever really said about it.  Ichi has fallen in with Jijii, Ryo and Inoue—two more yakuza outcasts who appear to be working with Ichi as his clean-up crew.  Appearances are deceiving and Ichi is in fact being manipulated by Jijii.  When pushed to his limit, Ichi dons his black costume with the number 1 on the back and blades in the heels of his shoes and basically tears people apart.  When Ichi was in school he had witnessed the gang rape of a female student and he didn’t help her.  Jijii uses this to get Ichi to kill the yakuza members that he wants dead.  Just how he actually manipulates Ichi is quite interesting.  After one bloody attack on Anjo’s clan, Kakihara finds one man still alive and questions him on what happened.  Another of Anjo’s girlfriends, Karen, shows up and seems to revel in the pain she and Kakihara inflict on the man before he dies.  He decides he wants Karen to be his girl but quickly loses interest when she isn’t capable of inflicting pain on Kakihara.  After this latest attack on the clan, Kakihara enlists the help of a couple of police detectives—a set of brothers—to help him find Ichi.  They find Ryo and kidnap both him and his girlfriend.  To get Ryo to talk they torture his girlfriend in a rather gruesome manner.  Again, it’s difficult to watch.  They ultimately find out about Ichi and set out to find him.  With the help of one of Anjo’s bodyguards, a disgraced cop named Kaneko, Kakihara finds Ichi and the final showdown on a building rooftop is bizarre, to say the least.

ICHI THE KILLER is one of my all-time favorite movies.  It’s definitely one of Miike’s masterpieces.  There is so much going on, but it’s not too much that it gets confusing.  It’s definitely a wild ride and you know it from the title sequence using a particular body fluid—and it isn’t blood.  I must point out that the scarred man on the movie poster/DVD cover is NOT Ichi.  So many people seem to think it’s him but it is in fact Kakihara, because the movie is about him as much as it is about Ichi.  It’s also about Jijii and his obsessive need to wipe out this particular yakuza clan.  Kakihara is a man who feels nothing.  He needs to feel pain in order to feel human.  There is a joke made about Kakihara maybe being “in love” with Anjo, but the fact is he needs the pain that Anjo inflicted on him.  There’s a scene where Kakihara is chained up in a room and he is instructing Karen on how to inflict the most pain, but she can’t quite do it and he becomes extremely disappointed in her.  It’s almost sad to see as he changes his mind about Karen being his girlfriend.   In the manga version, there is an almost supernatural element to Kakihara, with his ability to absorb the pain and use it for power.  Miike has quite effectively changed that to a much more psychological element.  Kakihara’s quest to find Ichi is not so much about revenge for his boss’s murder, but his almost suicidal need for Ichi to inflict the ultimate pain on him.

Another element to the movie that I find interesting is the lack of fight scenes.  There is a lot of blood spilled at the hands of Ichi, but we don’t ever actually see it happen.  We only see the aftermath of Ichi’s work and it’s still quite gruesome.  The blood sprays but the action itself is rarely seen.  However, as I’ve already mentioned, there are some scenes in ICHI that are very difficult to watch; not so much for the gore but for the kind of pain you can practically feel yourself.  It really is enough to make you squirm…and I did.  There is also a depth to the characters in ICHI that you wouldn’t necessarily expect in a horror/yakuza film.  Besides Kakihara’s obsession with feeling pain, there is Jijii’s obsession with taking down Anjo’s clan—killing them all—and how he is able to manipulate Ichi to do what he wants.  Then of course there is Ichi himself and what drives his compulsion to kill the way he does.  You will be asking yourself “How can this meek little man turn into such a cold-blooded killer?”  There’s another story going on with the bodyguard Kaneko and his son Takeshi.  Kaneko is a disgraced cop who was given a chance to earn some money by Anjo.  His wife left him and Takeshi is afraid Kaneko will also leave.  Kaneko is very loyal to Anjo, but must try to balance that loyalty with caring for his son.  Kaneko ultimately plays a major role in finding Ichi.

My DVD of ICHI THE KILLER comes with two hours of bonus material, including the making of ICHI, commentary with Takashi Miike and manga writer Hideo Yamamoto, and the original movie trailer.  There is also a featurette called “The Cult of Ichi,”  which includes interviews with author Jack Ketchum, actress Debbie Rochon and Tony Timpone, publisher of FANGORIA magazine.  My daughter bought the DVD for me while at an anime convention, and it’s one of my favorite gifts from her.  She knows what her mama likes.  This is, in my opinion, a must-have movie for any fans of horror or the bizarre. For anyone who may be interested, you can read the manga that inspired the movie online for free by going here.  It is actually more graphic and bloody than the movie.

Colleen Wanglund
11/7/2010

© Copyright 2010 by Colleen Wanglund