“Just a little torture, nothing special.”

Kakihara is a sadomasochist yakuza enforcer who enjoys giving and receiving pain in about equal measure. One night, his boss winds up missing, everyone presumes he’s dead, but Kakihara doesn’t. He goes out searching for his boss, and the guys responsible for his disappearance. This leads him to discovering Ichi, a man even more disturbed than he is; a confused and apparently psychotic individual who is normally unassuming and cowardly, but becomes homicidal when enraged (and who has crying fits when committing his murders). Trippy, gore-fueled wackiness ensues…

As it goes, the exploitation / torture sub-genre of horror ranks rather low on my list of preferences. The reason being its not truly scary; the on screen mutilations and torture may make you squeamish, but what it boils down to usually is going for the gross-outs.

Ichi The Killer, borrowed from my cousin Rosa (who also has a taste for the dark stuff), was, I’m told, one of the sickest movies to come out of Asian theater, and was supposed to traumatize me so to the point of completely desensitizing me to violence and mayhem in general. Maybe I’m already completely dead inside, because after watching this movie, I find myself less disturbed and more amused.

Mind you, there were several scenes that made me squeamish, involving the torture and kills. What amused me was mainly the use of British voice-overdubs. I was in hysterics whenever someone said “wanker” and various other forms of British slang. The torture scenes felt a bit arbitrary…like the pattern was Plot-Plot-Torture-Plot-Plot-Torture-Comedy Relief-Plot…you get the idea.

Fact is, that actually worked in this movie’s favor. Most exploitation movies have no plot to speak of. Ichi The Killer (“Ichi” means “One”, which explains the yellow “1” on the back of Ichi’s Power Ranger suit) is really a hardboiled gangland movie with some heavy doses of gore and torture thrown in. The main…protagonist? Is that right? Can you really have a protagonist in a movie where everyone’s pretty much on the muck and mire end of the moral spectrum? Anyhoo, the bleach-blonde guy with the extend-o-matic cheeks and a taste for the smacky-smack is a hoot to watch. The set- I’m assuming most of Tokyo was used- lent to a very claustrophobic feel, with the photography and the editing used lending a very psychedelic, trippy vibe to it.

Ichi The Killer is, in my not-so-humble opinion, is one of those curiosity movies that I’ll watch once, just to see what’s going on. Not something I’d watch again or add to my collection, but not because it’s so disturbing to watch. Then again, that’s just me…dead inside…I guess. More for the fans of Hostel and other torture exploitation flicks…