REVIEW: First Love (2019): A boxer and a call girl walk into a bar...

You're seeing this correctly, this is a grown man running down the Japanese streets in his underpants.

A film directed by Takashi Miike, a Japanese director that runs the gamut in film and television output. I generally know his extreme work so I wasn't sure what to expect in this outing.

As alluded to earlier this is Japanese cinema. So you better have the Japanese audio on and subtitles of your choice scrolling across your screen. You know mine was.

Our boxer is young, strong and tough from our initial view. Suddenly, a random punch lands and his legs become like jelly and he's down. The look of surprise on his face is unmistakable, something is wrong and he's not getting up quickly. We soon find out he's been diagnosed with a brain tumor and an operation is out of the question. I'm sorry says the doctor and I can't tell you how long you have either. Oh by the way, you can't box either.

Our boxer can still land a punch but this time it's outside the ring. What a whopper, the recipient literally did a flip on contact.

The news is devastating for our Boxer named Leo Katsuragi (Masataka Kubota). He's had a tough life, abandoned as a child and never knowing true family he must cope with his new death sentence. At anytime he can go and boxing is his only joy in life. Dreams dashed, life on the rocks and no future; this is his situation.

Leo and Yuri are bonding together. Music is a great way to get to know each other. Be sure to share your headphones once in awhile.

Meet Yuri (Sakurako Konishi). She is in bad situation, forced to be a call girl to pay off her father's debts and she is being held by Yasu (Takahiro Miura), a yakuza and his girlfriend Julie (Becky). I'm not sure what's up with this credit? A television personality in Japan apparently.

We have a sub-plot of yazkuka member Kase (Shota Sometani) and a police officer named Otomo (Nao Omori). They're scheming to steal drugs from Yasu and Julie while blaming the entire affair on the drug-addicted call girl Yuri.

Gangsters being gangsters as usual. What a hideout for the Chinese triad.

The plot starts to become complicated and the characters start to intertwine. During all of this there is a constant threat between the Japanese yakuza and the Chinese triad. As with any interesting crime film nothing goes according to the initial plan and the rest of the film is the aftermath of these struggles for power.

Eventually our Boxer, Leo literally runs into Yuri and they form a bond. Julie's boyfriend is killed and she becomes a ferocious woman seeking vengeance. The feud between the yakuza and triad boils over. We're in for one hell of a night.

The police show up at numerous points as to be expected in a Yakuza film.

There is a lot to process in the film. Many subplots going on simultaneously but never overwhelming. Takashi Miike has made so many different films in many different genres, I primarily know him from his more controversial horror work such as Ichi the Killer and Audition. This is a straight up crime drama and an interesting one. There are some over the top moments such as beheadings but no pinky severing as the trope seemed to be in every film under the rising sun involving the yakuza.

The film time span is over one night in Japan. Lots of night scenes are here but never muddy and often filled with a neon glow. Tokyo looks gorgeous at this time of night and the camera picks up all its beauty and grime needed for a yakuza heavy film.

The killings are inevitable. Some are particularly brutal especially when the wronged parties find out a loved one has been taken. Time for some revenge.

Trying to classify the film is futile. A love story, crime story, yakuza story? This all blends together with violence, comedy and love. They do work and are a hard combination to forge. As with all his work, Miike will never leave you uninterested. Often you're surprised at what you just witnessed and it may take a few seconds to process what you've seen. This is often his standard form and one of the reasons why I'll always watch anything he makes.

First Love is a good film and worth the watch for those looking for something quirky and fun. He often reminds me of Quentin Tarantino at times. I think there is something in here for everyone and I would consider it one of his more accessible films to a general audience. For those wishing to delve into darker territory he has plenty as well. A director with the filmography that is expansive and can scratch any itch you're in the mood for.

Shoeless while dragging a crowbar by her side. She's ready to get answers from anyone who might have information about the death of her partner.

Check it out.

Thanks for the read 🙂

All media captured by myself from the original source.

Hold up a minute.
Things are not always what they seem. This is the case throughout this wild ride of a film.

How is one supposed to behave when a barefoot woman with a crowbar jumps on the hood of your car? She is ferocious and people better give her what she's looking for.

Does everyone get to ride into the sunset unharmed? I don't think so, this is quite the ride.

There are many truths that are revealed. As with any good film with Yakuza members in it there is a good deal of self-reflection.

3 columns
2 columns
1 column