Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya Ichi) is a full-length Japanese feature film that was released into theaters in 2001. It was directed by Takashi Miike. Miike has become known as an extremely controversial director due to his misogynistic characters. A lot of his movies show extreme graphic violence. When Ichi the Killer debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival, members of the audience were given bags that had the film’s logo on it to use to vomit in. It was a fairly disgusting promotional gimmick which seemed to work. Miike has been linked with such famous horror directors as John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper and continues to push the boundaries of film making.
Kakihara is a sadomasochist. He is also an enforcer for an extremely powerful Japanese mob. Anjo, Kakihara’s boss, is discovered dead, and when the body is cleaned up, 3 million yen comes up missing. Most of the other members of the mob believes that the money can not be recovered, but Kakihara believes it can be. He starts trailing the money and first finds himself torturing Suzuki, who is a member of a rival mob. He gruesomely hangs him from the ceiling using metal hooks, by piercing them through Suzuki’s back. He then shoves thin knives into his hanging body and finishes it off by tossing boiling grease onto his captive.
When he discovers that Suzuki is actually innocent of any crimes, Kakihara ends up cutting off part of his own tongue and offering it to the leader of the other mob family. Kakihara then goes searching for the old man that gave him the information, Jijii, but is not able to find him. Kakihara is forced to leave the mob family and when he is leaving, hears about Jijii and his trainee. Jijii has actually been manipulating the entire situation and is training a man named Ichi, who is extremely psychotic. Ichi believes, due to a false memory that Jijii imprinted in his brain, that he can only be aroused by witnessing or delivering pain.
Kakihara’s mission then turns from finding the missing money, to finding the elusive “ultimate pain” that has been evading him for so many years. In the end of the film, Ichi ends up going to Kakihara’s home. No matter what Kakihara does, though, Ichi will not harm him. It is only when Ichi is enraged that he enjoys giving out pain. In desperation, Kakihara inserts pins directly into his ears, making him deaf. Ichi finally gets enraged and attacks Kakihara, lodging a razor blade deep into his forehead. Right before his death, Kakihara says that it is the greatest thing he has ever felt.
Ichi the Killer was originally a Japanese manga written by Hideo Yamamoto. In the beginning of the filming process, Miike wanted Yamamoto to write the screen play completely in manga form. Unfortunately Yamamoto ended up suffering with writer’s block and was unable to complete the manga.