Written by: Michael Den Boer on June 4th, 2007
Theatrical Release Dates: Japan, 1999
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Nao Omori, Alien Sun, Sabu, Tadanobu Asano
DVD released: May 29th, 2007
Approximate running time: 128 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital 5,1 Japanese, Dolby Digital Stereo Japanese, Dolby Digital 5,1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Tokyo Shock/Media Blasters
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $34.95
Synopsis: A Yakuza boss disappears with 300 million yen and is presumed dead. His right hand man Kakihara a sadistic madman is put in charge of finding out what happened to his boss and dealing with those involved. At first things run smoothly until Kakihara crosses paths with another psychopath named Ichi who is being lead around by a retired cop who uses Ichi to carry out vigilante justice against those who slip through the cracks of the system.
Chances are that if you are familiar with Takshi Miike then you have seen Ichi the Killer. It is along with his film The Audition his most distinguished and memorable films to date. Like all great artists you know their work immediately and this is definitely true of Takashi Miike who in a matter of moments shows you something you have seen and yet never in that way before.
The film Ichi the Killer has been talked about and analyzed thousands of times over and yet each new person who sees this unique film comes away with something that is wholly their own. On the surface Ichi is filled with blood, guts, brutally to men & women, an occasional shot of semen and most importantly it is laced with a dark sense of humor making all the disturbing images Takashi Miike is bombarding us with make sense.
Performance wise everyone including the secondary roles all do a great job selling their performances and yet there is one performance that towers above all. That is Tadanobu Asano as Kakihara. Asano is filled with a kind of intensity that rarely works in film and yet he manages to walk dangerously close to the edge without ever going too far. My favorite moment in the film involves Kakihara who cuts off his tongue to prove his loyalty. What I found most ironic about this scene is how all the Yakuza in the room turn their head and cringe at the sight of his tongue being sliced off.
A lot of what makes Ichi the Killer so special is no its violent tone but the way that Takashi Miike deals with violence in general. If you go into the film with a sense of humor and looking for more than just sadism or gore then you are sure to enjoy this film. Ultimately Ichi the Killer is an orgy of carnage that hits all the right notes and makes all the right incisions.
Six years ago Media Blasters released two versions of Ichi the Killer on DVD. One was a Rated R version and the other was an uncut version of the film. Now here we are six years later and Media Blasters revisits this title once again under the banner “Blood Pack”. First off this transfer unlike the previous one from Media Blasters has been flagged for progressive scan. The overall quality of the image looks slightly sharper and more colorful then the previous release with most of the improvements being so marginal that it depends on your home video set up if will notice just how good this new transfer is compared to all that have come before it.
This release comes with four audio options a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a stereo mix in Japanese and a Dolby Digital 5.1 and a stereo mix in English. All four audio mixes sound really good and are free of any distortion or any other sound defects. Overall the audio sounds just as good as it did on the previous Media Blasters release. Removable English subtitles that are free of any errors have been included.
The extras for this release are spread over two discs. The extras on the first disc include a trailer for the film and trailers for these Tokyo Shock releases Ultimate Versus, Zeiram, The Neighbor No. 13 and Zebraman. Other extras include a photo gallery and a seven minute interview with director Eli Roth who discusses Ichi the Killer and how it influenced him as a filmmaker. The main extra on disc one is the previously released audio commentary with director Takashi Miike and writer Hideo Yamamoto. This audio commentary is in Japanese and comes with English subtitles. If you are a fan of Ichi The Killer then you will want to check out this exceptional audio commentary with Miike and Yamamoto.
Extras on disc two include a trailer reel which includes trailers for eleven of Miike’s films which have all been released by Tokyo Shock on DVD. Other extras include a ten minute feature titled “The Cult of Ichi” which includes comments from horror writer Jack Ketchum, Fangoria’s Tony Timpone, actress Barbra Nedeljakova, illustrator Stephen R. Bissette, actress Debbie Rochon, director Lucky Mckee, producer Scott Spiegel, author Chris D. and director Mike Mendez. This feature is nothing more than a collection of thoughts from some of Ichi the Killers better known fans. Also included with this release is forty nine minute documentary titled “Memories of Ichi” which includes comments from cast, crew and Takashi Miike as well as an abundance of behind the scenes footage. Rounding out the extras for this release are six interviews which can either be played separately or all in row. The interviews are producer Dai Mayazaki (nineteen minutes), actor Tadanabu Asano (six minutes), actor Nao Omori (six minutes), actor Sabu (five minutes), actor Shinya Tsukamoto (five minutes) and actors Sabu & Shinya Tsukamoto discuss Ichi (twenty one minutes). No stone is left unturned as just about everyone from the production has been interviewed and everything you would ever want to known about this film is contained in the wealth of extras for this release.
Finally one must not overlook the elaborate package which houses this release. It is a see through clear case that houses a pack of blood. The DVD’s for this release are housed in this packet and take some time to get out. Overall while the idea behind the package is very cool it does present some minor problems when trying to remove the DVD’s. Media Blasters latest incarnation of Ichi The Killer is without a doubt the most definitive release of this film to date on DVD, highly recommended.