Director: Takashi Miike
Script: Masaru Nakamura
Cast: Masataka Kubota, Nao Ohmori, Shota Sometani, Becky, Sakurako Konishi, Jun Murakami, Seiyo Uchino
Running time: 108.5 minutes
Takashi Miike’s latest film is an ensemble type of film which brings a number of initially disparate plots strands together and has them finally coalesce at the end into a more satisfying whole. As usual with Miike the ‘plot’ doesn’t make much sense at first, but stick with it and it comes together as one of his more satisfying and accessible films to watch. It’s certainly up there with his better films, including Audition, The Happiness of the Katakuris, Visitor Q and Ichi the Killer.
The two main characters that people Takashi’s, at times, rather surreal world are: Monica (Sakurako Konishi), a young woman who was sexually abused by her perverse father as a child and, when he failed to pay his debts off to the Yakuza, he sold her to them and she now is forced to work as a prostitute, and Leo (Masataka Kubota), a promising young boxer who is diagnosed as having a brain tumour after he collapsed in the ring.
These two unfortunate people come together when Monica is being chased by a corrupt cop out to use her as leverage in order to find out where her pimp has hidden a drug stash. Leo, feeling that he’s got nothing to lose, takes the cop down with one well-timed punch and then acts as the young woman’s guardian angel for the rest of the film. The two ‘lovebirds’ soon find themselves being pursued by the Yakuza, a female assassin, her pimp’s girlfriend out for revenge, and the persistent corrupt cop from earlier.
Miike fills his film with sleazy characters, sick-looking neon colours, and the gritty back-streets of Tokyo that becomes a character all of its own. And, as with most of his films, there’s a good dose of shocking violence thrown into the mix, especially decapitations, which the director seems to relish sharing with us. Plus, there’s a nice streak of black humour running throughout the movie and a bizarre, but quite cool, anime sequence towards the end that has to be seen to be believed involving a flying car!
The acting is good, especially from the key players, who all work well together, and the cinemaphotography, by Nobuyasu Kita, is generally nicely done apart from during a couple of fight scenes which seemed unnecessarily ‘messy’ and badly framed to me.
All in all First Love is certainly worth a watch and, if you’ve not ‘experienced’ a Takishi Miike film before, it’s not a bad place to start with to begin to check out the prolific director’s expansive oeuvre.
Signature Entertainment is distributing First Love on DVD and Blu-Ray. The only other features on the disc are trailers for Come to Daddy and The Peanut Butter Falcon.