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Blood will flow… heads will roll… hardly ever have those standard issue gang war sentences been taken so literally by a film maker…  Wikipedia cites the Norwegian film classification board as calling the film to depict “high impact violence and cruelty” and keeping it out of the theatres for that reason. A very accurate and sober description, I have to say.

This film is about a war between several Yakuza gangs, triggered by the butchering of one of the gangs’ boss, Anjo. Then Anjo’s guys and some other guys and some other guys’ guys venture out to find who did what and kill everybody who might have done something. A particularly memorable encounter happens between Kakihara, played in creepy and jolly fashion by Tadanobu Asano, the interim leader of the Anjo gang, and a Mister Suzuki, the latter experience an intense period of suspension (haha! Oh wicked humour of the … well, wicked… ), but only until the misunderstanding is settled and Kakihara admits to having been a split-tongued bastard.

Kakihara is kind of a bad-ass Joker, waiting for the next extreme experience in his life and facing it with a grin all over his grin-cut face (which allows him the neat trick of blowing cigarette smoke sideways out through his cut cheeks – something that goes down well at a certain category of party, I am sure). Despite his generally humorous approach to sado-masochism, he takes it on himself to find the killer who slaughtered his boss and somehow to “keep the band together”. As rumours narrow down to a certain Ichi being said killer, it all moves towards a face-off between those two. The quest will render more faces off and other parts of other bodies in a detached state.

Ichi is correctly described at some point as a whining and weepy kid. He cannot get over the trauma of watching a girl getting raped in high school and not only being unable to intervene, but also actually getting aroused by the experience. As a result, he dresses up like a Ninja-Batman and tries to figure out whose death will remedy the evil deeds of the past.

This sets the tone for a lot of what’s happening in this politically and aesthetically most incorrect of all films. Sadists meeting masochists, torturers having a field day, slicing and poking and chopping until there are literally fountains of blood spurting all over the place, intestines piling up and limps flying across rooms. I kid you not.

There is not much arguing that this is a film for audiences of a certain deviant taste. It should be noted, however, that there is almost always a comical atmosphere of grotesque theatre, taking the edge off the most gruesome scenes. The topic of this gory stage play is revenge and violence, and how some people consider violence a form of artistic expression. I think nobody with a mature mind will confuse this with glorification of violence (the depiction of the somehow negative consequences of violent acts are actually quite… graphic…), but out of the people I personally know, I would judge 90 per cent would still find the film too revolting to watch. The other ten per cent will have a field day, and will celebrate Takeshi Miike for another bit of evidence that he is something between a sick genius and genuinely sick…

(side note on the plot: I am in general unable to follow a somehow twisted plot in a setting that makes me constantly shout “woah?” or “yiiieks?”. Hence I was not just a bit surprised about the details of the plot as described in the Wikipedia entry.. )

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