Produced by Muneyuki Kii,
Jeremy Thomas, Misako Saka
Written by Masaru Nakamura
Directed by Takashi Miike
Starring Masataka Kubota, Nao Ōmori,
Shōta Sometani, Sakurako Konishi, Becky,
Jun Murakami, Sansei Shiomi, Seiyō Uchino
Takashi Miike’s latest is definitely in his wheelhouse: a heist-gone-wrong drama loaded with dark humor and some genuine romance.
A young woman (going by the professional name Monica and played by Sakurako Konishi), whose scumbag father owes a huge debt to the yakuza, is forced into prostitution to pay off her dad’s debt. She’s developed a drug habit to boot, which only adds to the debt.
As a side-effect of the drugs and mental abuse, she occasionally hallucinates, usually seeing her father in his tighty-whities, wrapped in a bedsheet, silently stalking her.
Meanwhile, a young boxer who was abandoned by his parents as an infant, has grown up to be a successful boxer. However, upon uncharacteristically being knocked out by a soft blow, he goes to the hospital, to be solemnly informed he has a large tumor at the stem of his brain and has very little time left.
At the same time, a yakuza minion and a corrupt cop formulate a plan to steal a large amount of drugs from the yakuza.
All the players’ paths cross and the plan goes awry in hugely entertaining fashion.
It’s all a very appealing set-up for crime film fans, and Miike and company run with it.
The film is inventive, full of surprises and left turns and packed with energy. It’s also got that great all-in-one-night vibe that makes movies like this, After Hours, Miracle Mile, and the majority of Eyes Wide Shut so compelling.
Miike shows no sign of flagging after so many features under his belt; the pacing is aces and the framing is terrific – there are some nice comedic moments at the sides of the frame or in the background of certain scenes to keep viewers on their toes.
The acting is excellent across the board, with special mention to Becky (nee Rebecca Eri Rabone) as Julie, who spends most of the movie on a wild-eyed quest for vengeance. She is an absolute riot.
Miike plays it to the hilt, throwing in an animated sequence (likely inspired by budgetary concerns) out of nowhere but works just fine due to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink aspect of the film up to that point.
It all wraps up with an extremely satisfying climax and denouement.
First Love is endlessly enjoyable and comes highly recommended.