Ichi the Killer (2001)
Prodigiously prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike is best known in some circles for his audacious "Audition," a film that begins as a low-key study of a nice middle-aged widower looking for love and turns into one of the most emotionally and physically extreme horror pictures ever, climaxing, as it were, with a beautiful young woman methodically slicing off its hero's foot with a long string of thin piano wire. This story of deranged quasi-punk yakuza types and one wacko (the title one) who lives to assassinate them takes its cues from some of Peter Jackson's early tongue-in-cheek gore pastiches such as "Dead/Alive," but unlike the Jackson stuff, with this film it's hard to tell when it's kidding around or not. So yes, when the film's opening credits coagulate from the emissions of the sexually-excited-by-murder Ichi, it's supposed to be "funny," but the other various brutal beatings and nipple-slicings and rapes are depicted/executed with a conviction that's not at all comical. And in terms of sheer volume of distasteful material, this one is hard to beat. Such efforts so defined Miike's reputation that one now tends to be more shocked by the non-extreme, family-minded fare he comes out with.
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