First Love

The relentless Takashi Miike is back, this time with a madcap gangster mashup that's as genuinely thrilling as it is ridiculous

Film Review by Katie Goh | 10 Feb 2020
  • First Love
Film title: First Love
Director: Takashi Miike
Starring: Masataka Kubota, Nao Omori, Shota Sometani, Sakurako Konishi, Becky, Jun Murakami, Sansei Shiomi, Seiyo Uchino
Release date: 14 Feb
Certificate: 15

Takashi Miike, the Japanese genre auteur of over 100 film and television productions, returns with First Love, a chaotic action-thriller, rom-com hybrid. Set over the course of one eventful night in Tokyo, Leo (Masataka Kubota), a sullen boxer diagnosed with a brain tumour, meets Monica (Sakurako Kanishi) who has been sold into a life of sex work and drug addictions by her abusive father. The pair bond over their unfortunate fates and a shared melancholy, thrown together when a dodgy deal between gangsters and crooked cops goes wrong.

Meanwhile, a colourful cast of assassins, rival gang members and mobsters enter the narrative, before most are violently dispatched via beheading. It sounds chaotic – and it is – but, with his mastery of the pulpy B-movie, Miike keeps the narrative moving with enough kinetic energy and tight storytelling that everything just about makes sense. It’s a testament to Miike and First Love’s editor, Akira Kamiya, that the film’s action is so coherent, cut with sharp precision and the right amount of panache and self-referential, tongue-in-cheek humour.

Miike is hardly reinventing the pulp wheel with First Love, but he is spinning it with glee. For a filmmaker with more than a hundred directing credits under his belt, First Love’s stamina is even more impressive. Let the formulaic plot and characters whizz past your head, and you’re in for a genuinely thrilling, ridiculous romp through Tokyo’s seedy underworld that’s likely to be a new favourite at midnight movie nights. 

Released 14 Feb by Signature Entertainment; certificate 15