Spoilers think a card would have been enough.
Takashi Miike is already a legend. He’s a prolific director of over a hundred features and one of the darlings of Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival. This movie would’ve been quite at home premiering there. The movie has an abundant reserve of his signature style for extremes, violence and memorable characters. If you’re a fan, I would strongly encourage you stop reading now and watch it online.
First Love (2019) was directed by Takashi Miike and written by Masa Nakamura. The story at its core has a boxer named Leo Katsuragi (Masataka Kubota) and a call girl Yuri aka “Monica” (Sakurako Konishi) run into each other on the street. Leo has a promising career as a boxer, but he’s down after he learns he’s got an incurable tumor. Yuri is paying off her father’s dept selling her body as “Monica” but has become addicted to drugs and suffers from hallucinations of her father. She’s also being framed to take the fall for a missing drug shipment.
I get the title. Leo’s first love is boxing, which he can’t do anymore. Yuri’s first love is drugs, which she’s going to get killed for. Each of the characters seem to be putting their lives on the line for something they want. As the movie and the violence escalates, each character joins the fray for their own obsession. Yakuza Kase (Shota Sometani) and crooked cop Otomo (Nao Omori) are probably the most entertaining to watch as their scheming and double crossing seem to keep leaving a trail of bodies and suspicion around them. Inevitably, the gang war begins and revenge is on everyone’s mind.
This is one of those movies in which you either get into the violent style of fun that Miike’s famous for or you don’t. It’s a guilty pleasure of gore and severed heads where nobody is safe and the idea of fair play is a fairy tale. Audiences that are fans of the genre will find some very joyful moments as well as memorable characters wielding swords and katanas ready to drench the screen. “Love” might be the furthest thing from everyone’s mind.
It has its amazing, over the top “oh shit it’s on now” moments and its lulls. One of the obvious is the movie is very satisfying to bring its massive multiple-threaded confrontation climax but then lingers on afterwards. I think the pacing is great for the most part and the difference in tone as violence and fun get mixed is to be expected. The afterthought as the film tries to settle things for its survivors is mostly anti-climatic and not really necessary, but fortunately it ends if only to left us wondering why it’s there.
Strongly recommended with reservations. It might have been my stream, but I could’ve have used more light in some scenes. The dark humour and comic-like violence are unrelenting and very satisfying for those expecting gore and beheadings, but they will turn off the more casual viewer that is not familiar with the extreme style. The character development is only admissible during the actual confrontation scenes, which means only the more involved characters really get to leave their mark. These are not necessarily the protagonists. If highly memorable characters and over the top confrontations are what you’re after, this should be a movie to watch.
That will do for now.