When a yakuza boss disappears, the mysterious Ichi, a psychopath with a secret, unleashes his own brand of violent justice.
Japanese gore-maestro Takashi Miike may be an acquired taste, but at his best, as here with this nutso fusion of the gangster and serial-killer genres based on Hideo Yamamoto’s manga series, he’s an electrifying filmmaker. Making sense of all the betrayals and yakuza wickedness is not really the point, rather we should be rooting for the peculiar Ichi (Nao Omori) as he works his way through the bad guys, courtesy of kung fu and razor-tipped boots.
Mixing jet-black humour, high style and dollops of torture/S&M, Miike’s notoriety for extreme violence is well-known (he is something of an artist in this world — catch a sliced-off human face sliding down a brick wall, expression still intact); lesser-sung is his interest in capturing a visceral undercurrent of human nature. Ichi is a neurotic, shy, strangely sympathetic kind of psycho.
Sometimes electrifying, sometimes plain alarming, Takashi Miike's gangster opus is certainly never dull.