Written by: Michael Den Boer on July 23rd, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1999
Director: Takashi Miike
Cast: Shinya Tsukamoto, Nao Omori, Alien Sun, Sabu, Tadanobu Asano
BluRay released: February 23rd, 2010
Approximate running time: 128 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive
Sound: Dolby TrueHD Stereo Japanese, Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese, Dolby TrueHD Stereo English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English
BluRay Release: Tokyo Shock / Media Blasters
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.99
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.
Ichi the Killer comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive anamorphic widescreen. When compared to Media Blasters previous release of Ichi the Killer. This new transfer is only a slight improvement. The main issues with this transfer is that image does tend to soft at times and there appears that some DNR has been applied to smooth out the image.
This release comes with two audio options, Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Japanese and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English. It should be noted that the Dolby TrueHD Stereo Japanese and Dolby TrueHD Stereo English audio options which are listed on the box art. That they are missing from the actual disc. Quality wise the two audio options which have been included are both very good lossless audio tracks. The audio is always clear and everything sounds balanced. Both mixes also do a great good with the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack. Removable English subtitles that are easy to follow and error free have been included with this release.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 45 seconds – letterboxed widescreen, in Japanese with English subtitles), a image gallery and a featurette titled “The Cult of Ichi” (10 minutes 21 seconds – 4:3 full frame) 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 Killer’s better known fans. Other extras included a interview with director Eli Roth (7 minutes 11 seconds – 4:3 full frame) who discusses Ichi the Killer and how it influenced him as a filmmaker and a lengthy featurette titled “Memories of Ichi” (48 minutes 58 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles) which includes comments from cast, crew and Takashi Miike as well as an abundance of behind the scenes footage. The main extra included with this release is a 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. 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 (18 minutes 35 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), actor Tadanabu Asano (6 minutes 12 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), actor Nao Omori (6 minutes 11 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), actor Sabu (5 minutes 21 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles), actor Shinya Tsukamoto (5 minutes 18 seconds – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles) and actors Sabu & Shinya Tsukamoto discuss Ichi (22 minutes – 4:3 full frame, in Japanese with English subtitles). 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. Even though they are listed on the back of the box art, the Takashi Miike and Tokyo Shock trailer galleries are nowhere to be found for this release. Media Blasters often delayed BluRay release for Ichi the Killer finally arrived earlier this year. Unfortunately after a long wait the end result is a transfer that does not take full advantage of the BluRay format.