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

13 Assassins (2010)

  
How I haven’t already reviewed this amazing movie I don’t know. So I am making up for that now. This is in my top 5 all time favourites and by the time you watch it, I’m pretty sure it’ll be in yours too. Viewing this for the first time is an experience that I’d love to feel again. 

  
The plot begins when the master of Namiya clan commits speppuku. A samurai warrior by the name of Shinzaemon Shimada (Kôji Yakusho) is summoned by the shogun’s advisor to hear the tale of a man who’s son and daughter-in-law were brutally slain by the evil Lord Naritsugu. Shinzaemon also meets a woman who was mutilated by Lord Naritsugu. She writes with her mouth pleading with Shinzaemon to kill Lord Nartisugu. Shinzaemon gathers 11 other warriors and together they seek to dispose of Lord Naritsugu. 

  
The build up is amazing. Some folks may watch this and worry it’s moving along too slow, but I implore you to bear with it, because the final third is quite possibly one of the greatest 40 or so minutes ever committed to celluloid. Takashi Miike who is normally known for his brutal Yakuza films and seriously disturbing dramas such as Visitor Q, has created possibly the finest samurai movie ever made, and yes I have seen Seven Samurai. There is some great drama delivered here, and the action is spectacular. Lord Naritsugu is one of the vilest villains to ever grace the screen, and you are willing the 13 Assassins to complete their herculean task. 

  
Every actor involved is magnificent, really bringing to life what it was like during those dark times. There is the odd helping of humour to lighten proceedings, mostly coming from the stranger that helps the 12 warriors become 13, which really rounds off how great this film is. I cannot recommend this enough, and 10 years down the line this, if it isn’t already, will be labelled a classic. This is a movie seriously worthy of your time. I urge you to see it. 

5/5

JM