Ichi the Killer is the movie of Frederic Wertham's nightmares. The psychologist who railed against violence in TV, movies and comic books and is responsible to this day for the notion that media violence begets real-world violence (ignoring just about every other sociological factor in the bargain) is no longer with us, but his shade hangs heavy over every heated discussion of the issue. Ichi the Killer plays like an upraised middle finger to the Frederic Werthams of the world, and to a great many other folks as well. I think I may be one of them.
I'm really at a loss. Ichi the Killer is one of the newest offerings from Takashi Miike, a disturbing and disturbingly prolific director with a slate of films that seem hell-bent on dislodging one's last meal (Fudoh, Audition, Hazard City, among many others). And yet underneath his surface shock tactics there is a very skilled and intelligent man at work. He sets up unlikely and sometimes unlikeable characters in even unlikelier situations, and then tries to see them as people and not plot devices. Sometimes this works (as it did in Audition and to a lesser extent in Fudoh); sometimes, as in Ichi, it just seems a great deal of effort for very little result. Read more
A sure sign of ongoing cultural cross-pollenation is when a French filmmaker freely hijacks his own cultural history and crossbreeds it with Hollywood and Hong Kong cinema conventions. The end result here is Brotherhood of the Wolf, a movie that's such a mad fusion of genres, styles, concepts and looks-and-feels that it becomes its own somewhat demented animal. Pardon the pun.
Wolf was written and directed by Christophe Gans, also responsible for the quite good and largely unseen film adaptation of the manga Crying Freeman, about an assassin who weeps every time he kills. That movie starred Marc Dacascos as Freeman; Wolf also features the same actor, albeit in a smaller role. Freeman was slightly hamstrung by its origins — it's basically a retelling of the first volume of the comic with some details compressed and thrown out. Wolf goes much further, taking a chapter from French history and embellishing it with high-action fantasy elements.Read more