Film Review: First Love

Takashi Miike’s First Love is an incredibly fun action movie. The veteran filmmaker has not lost his touch.

Leo is a young boxer who is given a life-changing diagnosis. He bumps into Monica, who is running from someone. The pair are unwittingly caught in a drug smuggling scheme involving the Yakuza, the Chinese, and the police…

Directed by Takashi Miike and written by Masa Nakamura, First Love is an action thriller with a number of elements at play. Miike opens on a number of different sequences which introduce the main players separately. With a number of different strands, there may be a concern that the narrative will be confusing. Miike quickly allays these fears by joining some of the strands up in a succinct manner.

First Love focuses on varying elements trying to track down a drug shipment, and the pair who unwittingly get caught in the middle of proceedings. Miike and Nakamura give the main characters enough development for viewers to invest in the story. The screenplay offers plenty of laughs; Miike knows the interplay between ultraviolence and comedy. With Leo and Monica plating things straight, it is up to Kase and the supporting characters to give the film its humour.

Action in the film is intermittent. There are a number of sequences along the way, but Miike makes viewers wait until the finale for the pay off. The most memorable of the later fights are ones where humour is present amongst the violence. Given Miike’s previous films, some may hope for more from the fight choreography. Nevertheless, it is still a lot of fun. The finale of First Love obviously required a stunt beyond budget restrictions. Miike deals with this in an amusing way.

Masataka Kubota and Sakurako Konishi give decent performances as Leo and Monica. Nao Ohmori is also good, and Shôta Sometani is a standout as Kase. His performance becomes more outlandish as the film progresses, yet it feels entirely in keeping with the style of the film.

First Love is another winner from Takashi Miike. The film is entertaining throughout.

First Love is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2019.

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