Thursday, September 23, 2010

Double Prequel: Ichi -1

I don't think that there is anyone around who will tell you that Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer is a visceral and intense thriller.  I won't do any different.  In fact, there's really no point in reviewing that.  So what's left to talk about?  How about the prequel- Ichi: Episode 0?  Well, that's out of print right now- plus it's anime.  Oh, I know!  The 2003 prequel to the prequel- Ichi -1.  Yeah, that's a thing.  In 2003, they made this movie that was designed to explain how the character became how he was.  Oh good, I was totally wondering about that!  Well, here it is- enjoy.  Get out your very-easily bent bats for my review of...
The film begins with a flashy opening credits sequence that amounts to nothing.  Following that, we get to meet some 'teens' fighting in an alley.  Despite them all being friends, they beat the shit out of each other.  Why?  Why not?  Are you saying that you and your friends didn't spin-kick cinder blocks into each other's faces as kids?!?  After this, they show no ill effects from their injuries at school.  Oh, it must be the Graduating Class of Wolverines, I guess.  During this, we meet Ichi, who is played by the same actor from the 2001 film, who acts completely unlike you would think.  He's shy, meek and just sort of stands around.  If you're going to make the character do a complete 180, what's the point in casting the same guy?  Never mind the whole idea that he's supposed to be younger here than he was in a film made 2 years earlier!  Anyways, the people sit around, play boxing games and just generally do nothing for a while.  Add in the 'YouTube video' production values and you have one *riveting* film, let me tell you!  The only real point here is to show that the lead bully- Dai- has fears about someone being stronger than him.  Foreshadowing, much?
After even more padding and filler that amounts to nothing, we get a scene where most of the group from the first scene follow some girls on their way home and corner them.  Oh, joy.  Around the same time, Ichi is walking by, having just been in the video store.  He sees the event in-the-making and his mere presence upsets the men.  They threaten him, but he locks up.  When they try to get him to fight, nothing happens.  Finally, Dai shows up and, as a lesson to Ichi, beats up the guys.  Is that a good reason?  Well, if you're looking for reason, look elsewhere!  I do laugh a bit at the girls stopping to mock him too.  It's like 'thanks for keeping me from being raped,... you moron.'  This upsets the whole group- although they don't complain about Dai kicking their ass- to the point where they kidnap Ichi and beat him up on the baseball field.  The beating/pitching practice goes on for a while as Dai sits around talking about how he'll come by when he's ready.  One of the bulllies throws one ball too many, however, and Ichi goes into a blind rage.  When Dai shows up, he sees nothing but injured teens on the field.  Yes, despite being beaten up for at least one hour straight and being tied up, Ichi beat them up.  Logic is a rarity in Japan, I guess.
In a bit right out of a kung-fu movie, a new villain arises in the third act.  Despite being about 95 lbs and scrawny (even by Japanese student standards), the guy uses his akido expertise to break one bully's arm and toss him out a window.  Conveniently enough, it's by where Ichi and Dai are standing, allowing them to catch his limp body.  Some time later, Dai confronts the bully and gets his ass kicked.  I thought the hours in that boxing simulation game would pay off more!  The fight occurs, by the way, after the bully is raping one of the female students.  I guess I should have expected that in a film that's *allegedly* related to Ichi the Killer.  Despite being wounded and weakened, Dai confronts the bully again!  The fact that the bully was soliciting sex from his girlfriend- and she wasn't exactly resisting- probably didn't help his judgement.  Before he can get another broken limb, Ichi walks by, provoking the guy.  Seriously, Ichi must have some sort of field that makes his mere presence upset these people!  In a five-minute long scene, Ichi runs from the bully, who is in turn chased by a wounded Dai.  Padding much?  Finally, Ichi is cornered and...doesn't fight.  Instead, Dai gets a prolonged ass-kicking until Ichi intervenes.  The bully is instantly afraid of the non-threatening guy.  Then again, he does bend a metal baseball bat with a kick, so his fears are warranted.  The fight turns in Ichi's favor and he axe-kicks the kid to death, somehow causing a massive CG blood-spray.  Sure- why not?!?  The End.
This movie sucks, even though it has no right to!  Telling the story of how the infamous Ichi the Killer becomes a killer should be an easy thing to do.  Unfortunately, the film is bogged down with bad pacing, bad production values and overall bad quality of writing/acting.  It makes the editing work in High Kick Girl look like Ran!  Why did they do that?  Did someone really watch the 'dailies' and say 'This awkward camera work is exactly what we're going for!'  The biggest problem here is this: it feels pointless.  The whole thing is meant to explain how Ichi went crazy and learned the ability to kill.  Well, this film doesn't really tell that story.  Instead, it tells how Ichi does nothing but walk near situations and do crazy violence twice.  That does not a callous, serial murderer make!  A bit of this confusion comes from a mix of source materials.  In case you don't know, Ichi the Killer is based on an anime/manga.  As such, certain ideas are in the original source material, but not in the film.  Case in point: Ricky fights an evil clone of himself at one point in the 'Riki-Oh' manga, but that doesn't occur in the film.  Imagine if they had made a proper sequel and shown you a flashback to that.  In the context of the film world, that would make no damn sense!  Ultimately, the simple fact is this: the movie sucks and has no purpose. You get a lot of mindless violence, but little sense.  Maybe that's what Ichi the Killer is all about to some, but not me.
Up next, I check out a film that involves zombies that come from scorpions.  Save me, Superman!  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. I would have thought this was a grand slam too, but I knew there had to be a good reason as to why I have never read a review of it until now..