First Love (2019)

Young boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota) has just had some very bad news. He’s been told he has a tumour and it’s not operable. Whilst taking a walk, lost in thought, he bumps into a girl called Monica (Sakurako Kanishi), who is on the run. Together they get caught up in a shady drug deal gone awry, and must try to survive the night, all while dodging Yakuza, Triads and a dirty cop.

‘First Love’ is a mixed bag. It has flashes of the old Takashi Miike, but I felt that it was very sanitised compared to movies like ‘Ichi the Killer’, ‘Audition’ or ‘Gozu’. Chunks of the movie are slow, and I felt too much time was spent on Monica’s hallucinations, rather than the bag of drugs which was what was supposed to be moving the story forward.

For me the output of Miike of late has been hit and miss. ‘Blade of the Immortal’ was brilliant, where ‘Yakuza Apocalypse’ was a bit haphazard. At times this did feel like the old Miike, particularly in the final act, but it felt too little too late. Takashi Miike is one of the hardest working directors in Japan, but I feel his work is starting to become a case of quantity over quality. Not a film I’d rush to buy….probably rent it digitally first.

‘First Love’ is available digitally now, and will be released on Blu Ray on March 2nd 2020.

3/5

JM