Takashi Miike is a machine. Since his debut in 1991, the man has directed over 100 theatrical, video and television productions. He adeptly handles a multitude of styles: from deranged, sadistic horror (Audition and Ichi the Killer) to samurai epics (13 Assassins and Blade of the Immortal) to genre hybrids that defy categorization (if you haven’t yet had the privilege to witness the cinematic dementia that is Gozu, do so immediately). Miike is restless, churning out oddities, both brutal and beautiful at breakneck speed.
“Our heroes’ paths cross due to the most unfortunate of circumstances, and now they are being tracked by the bloodthirsty yakuza.”
Now comes Miike’s First Love, wherein he both reigns in his most visceral impulses and serves up everything that makes him a legend. As a result, this may also be the director’s most accessible film yet. Don’t get me wrong – there’s still plenty of blood splatter to be found in the comedic crime thriller. It’s the subliminal pseudo-romance that powers the film though, that of its two heroes, and the one between Miike and cinema. In other words, it’s badass as hell.
Meet Leo (Masataka Kubota): a handsome, young, “unknown boxer with promise,” who was abandoned at birth. “It’s all I can do,” Leo says of his struggling career. To supplement the measly income, Leo peels eggs at a local low-rent establishment. His existence spirals when he discovers that he has a tumor in his brain. Meet Monica (Sakurako Konishi): a drug-addicted call girl, haunted by nightmarish visions of her father wrapped in bedsheets. She does what she does to pay off her father’s seemingly eternal debt to the yakuza. Our heroes’ paths cross due to the most unfortunate of circumstances, and now they are being tracked by the bloodthirsty yakuza. Leo’s fighting skills, along with his “nothing to lose” attitude, sure come in handy.