Film Review – First Love (2019)


Title – First Love (2019)

Director – Takashi Miike (13 Assassins

Cast – Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Shôta Sometani

Plot – Up and coming Japanese boxer Leo (Kubota) gets caught up in a dangerous night on the streets of Tokyo as he runs into potential love interest Monica (Konishi), all the while trying to avoid the Yakuza he has unwittingly come across. 

“The smell of war is in the air” 

Review by Eddie on 04/05/2021

Incredibly directing over 100 films of various shapes and sizes since his first official film went out for public consumption in 1991, famed Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike always provides his viewers with wild, unpredictable and often extremely original offerings (with in most cases additional blood shed and limb lopping) and in keeping up with tradition, black comedy First Love is yet another unique product from a visionary who has refused to ever rest on his laurels.  

Showcasing a softer side to his persona and even dialing things back a little bit here and there throughout, First Love is in some ways a different kind of Miike ride as we spend a night with downtrodden up and coming boxer and personality by-passed Leo, who by a chance encounter finds himself involved with the Yakuza owned Monica and on the run from a bunch of Tokyo criminals that are all mixed up in a drug-swindle that sets in motion a group of warring parties all hell-bent on revenge and coming out on top. 

Viewers have all certainly seen these type of “one night in the life” of type of films and there are elements of First Love that feel familiar but flying by at a consistent rate and throwing curve-balls at us every chance he gets (nothing can prepare you for visions of Monica’s creepy father), there’s enough fresh and exiting elements to Miike’s vision that it ensures should a viewer fall under its spell, its likely that this odd hybrid of gangster film, romance and thriller will become a new favorite very quickly.

It’s not a film that is going to make itself a legacy like some of Miike’s most renowned works like 13 Assassins, Ichi the Killer and Audition but Miike fans are going to have a blast watching one of their favorite directors take himself and his audience on a wild Tokyo fueled ride that increasingly ramps up the craziness and zaniness as Leo and Monica get further and further entrenched into a night on the town that features lopped limbs, cartoon segments and fast-paced car chases and offers a more original narrative than countless other Hollywood counterparts and even in its last moments showcases a director with a growing heart and sense of sentimentality as Leo and Monica’s journey may even warm hearts in unsuspecting ways. 

So while not a fully-fledged instant Miike classic, First Love is a fun, fast-paced and frenetic fusion of violence, love and crazed criminals all set against the ever colorful and energetic backgrounds of one of the most vivid and unique cities in the world. 

Final Say – 

First Love is a fresh take on a familiar story line and while many of Miike’s well-known staples are present, this is a film that feels a little different from what we’ve come to expect from the much-discussed director and provides a fun night out on the blood-soaked streets of Tokyo. 

3 1/2 fortune tellers out of 5 

5 responses to “Film Review – First Love (2019)

  1. I saw First Love in theaters back in 2019. It was the first Takashi Miike movie I saw, and it ended up on my Best of the Year list. I really loved the cast and characters (especially Shota Sometani’s Kase), and I think this is a great film to introduce somebody to the works of Miike (there’s a lot of his I need to check out).

    • I really do need to see more of his works, I’ve only seen his most talked about ones. This was a very fun and original offering.

      • I’ve seen Audition (whose latter half unnerved the hell out of me) and The Happiness of the Katakuris (which is really fun while also being completely bonkers). I plan to check out his Dead or Alive trilogy next.

  2. Thanks for covering this. I gotta say that Miike got a bit less interesting in the recent years but he is still one of my all time favorite Japanese directors. A lot of the movies he made in the 90s till mid 00s I would say are awesome.
    The first movie i saw was Dead Or Alive, it really blew me away and still does. Yeah, I remember when I discovered him around 1999/2000. Stuff like DOA 1-3, Audition, Visitor Q, Ichi the Killer, Izo or his Graveyard of Honor remake – awesome stuff.

    Again, thanks for the review. I didn’t see this one yet.

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