The reason why I focus on Leo and Monica is that they form the heart and soul of an otherwise-overstuffed film. As one character states: “Things are getting complicated.” The plot thickens, big time. An influential boss gets out of jail, seeking vengeance. Monica’s boss gets robbed of his drugs, and the blame falls on Monica. First Love delves deep into the inner-dealing of the yakuza, their relationship with the Chinese mafia (who “don’t care about honor”), and corrupt cops. That said, the intricate plot, while certainly demanding your attention, isn’t all that difficult to follow. Unlike your average Hollywood blockbuster, where you can suspend your brain for a few hours and still get the gist of it, Miike rewards your investment with an explosive, bloody finale and a soulful resolution.
In typical Miike fashion, First Love is sometimes frightening, sometimes lyrical, punctuated with unexpected moments of insanity and hilarity. It’s masterfully assembled, with a plethora of memorable sequences. Leo nonchalantly knocks out Monica’s pursuer during their first encounter. A semi-helpful, highly cheerful “nurse (and drunk)” pops out of nowhere, offering assistance to a hapless character. The unlocking of a seat-belt leads to a bloody bashing by way of continuous, rapid acceleration and deceleration. Monica scrapes drugs off a wounded character’s crotch, arousing him in the process. A man attempts to unclench a gun from his own severed hand. There’s an impromptu animated scene, and a character loudly proclaims: “I’m out to kill! Everybody! Out to kill!” What’s not to love, really?
“[Miike] directs with the verve of a young filmmaker, one that still has a million ideas marinating in a labyrinthine mind.”
Both of the leads provide subdued, introverted performances that imbue the crazed, heightened proceedings with real resonance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there’s the crazed Julie (actress/singer Becky, giving her all in an utterly demented bit of acting) – an, ahem, extravagant character you won’t soon forget. The rest of the cast is uniformly stellar, as are the production values.
There’s no one else in the cinematic world like Takashi Miike. He directs with the verve of a young filmmaker, one that still has a million ideas marinating in a labyrinthine mind. Supremely entertaining and hilarious, First Love will melt your brains, punch you in the gut and leave your hearts a-flutter.
"…will melt your brains, punch you in the gut and leave your hearts a-flutter. "