STARRING: MASATAKA KUBOTA; SAKURAKO KONISHI; SHOTA SOMETANI
DIRECTED BY: TAKASHI MIIKE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Considering Takashi Miike has directed 101 films at this point, it’s easy to see why his recent film- First Love– feels like he is making a movie that combines all of his greatest hits. There’s not a single genre that Miike hasn’t tried at this point and it would be impossible for him to make something that doesn’t express who he is as a director. In First Love, a boxer named Leo (Masataka Kubota) discovers he has a tumor in his head and not much time to live. This leads to him fearlessly helping a prostitute named Monica (Sakurako Konishi) in a time of need during a botched drug deal between two rival gangs and a few crooked police officers. The majority of First Love is a chase to get a massive bag filled with drugs, and in classic Takashi Miike style, a lot of shit goes down along the way.
With the recent diagnosis of his impending death, Leo roams the streets at a loss for purpose. He’s a promising young boxer, hoping to become the next champion, but a recent loss in the ring, was followed by this news, so things have been quite crappy for the guy. When the drug deal goes south, it’s amazing that he musters up the energy to knock out the police officers chasing after Monica, but the two pair up for a rush to get away from on-comers. This includes pissed off girlfriends with swords, bullets flying out of cars, and a one armed man wielding a shotgun. Just a typical day in a Takashi Miike picture.
One of Miike’s films prior to First Love was Blade of the Immortal, a movie that didn’t receive enough praise, and featured amazing sequences of a samurai swordsmen fighting against armies of the thousands. That’s a film that feels impossible to top, but I guess that’s how Miike’s greatness works, always reaching for more. Some might find the directors work to be oversaturated at this point, but the director will constantly keep viewers on their toes. First Love may be that chasing drama for the majority, while it sprinkles in heads being cut off with blades, car chases, humor, and romance as well. I like to call it one big Miike pot pie. What’s only missing is some vampires or flying frogs to make it 100% Miike.
The third act of First Love reveals more about Leo’s diagnosis, but that does not stop the chase, it only heightens it. Now he has found an affection for Monica, something he assumed he never had time for, and now he’s fighting off killers to keep her safe. If you think Miike would stay on the same path to finish the film, you just haven’t seen enough of his work. It is in the car chases where Leo & Monica think they have hit the end of the road, only for their car to turn into an animated getaway car looking like The Magic School Bus. Who does that? How could the car fly? Is there really any answer that would make sense? I don’t really think so.
I don’t think I get tired of Takashi Miike’s films. Especially if he keeps it moving like First Love. He is a director that is half man, half shark. If he were to stop swimming he would not be the amazing artist that he is and our cinematic ocean would be lonely without it. First Love is a cool, sometimes funny, and always exciting picture. I just hope Takashi Miike can direct 100 more movies. I never tire of them and First Love just pushes him to make more. We are very lucky.
3 1/2 STARS
Written by: Leo Brady