Starring: Masataka Kubota, Nao Omori, Shôta Sometani
Director: Takashi Miike
Running Time: 108 mins
First Love is a Japanese film about a chaotic night in the Tokyo underworld after a drug shipment goes missing, leading to all-out warfare between the city’s most powerful gangs, and with an innocent young man and woman caught right in the middle.
As delightfully chaotic as gangster movies get, legendary director Takashi Miike hits it out of the park with First Love. It’s intricate, exciting, violent and hilarious from beginning to end, bursting with deliriously insane energy that weaves together different stories in a masterful extravaganza of crime action.
In part a throwback to classic yakuza flicks, and in part an anarchic, modern reboot of the genre, First Love is an absolute masterpiece throughout, most of all because of its ingenious story.
With the same intricacy as Pulp Fiction or Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, First Love weaves together the stories of a handful of crime bosses, law officials, double-crossers and innocent bystanders in spectacular fashion, bringing them together over the course of a breathless night of violence in Tokyo.
The story make take a brief while to really get up and running, but once the pieces are set, it’s quite astonishing just how quickly the story unfolds. After a slower, more pensive first act that establishes our main characters, the second act follows as they all chase each other across the city, building up to an amazing battle royale in the final act.
With bloodthirsty vengeance in the eyes of pretty much everyone on screen, First Love powers along with incredible intensity, only matched by the sheer fun factor of its anarchic, comedic sensibilities that strike up hilarious and exhilarating violence throughout.
The entire final act is the stuff of legends, bringing together all of the film’s different stories in perfectly chaotic fashion, and pitting all of Tokyo’s biggest mob bosses against each other in a hilarious and breathless Free Fire-esque battle to the death.
From Takashi Miike’s classic style of ultra-violence to self-aware and satirical mockery of the mob world, First Love thrills both on a narrative and comedic level, and as such leaves you with barely a moment to breathe between all the fun and games.
That blend between hard-hitting violence and brilliant comedic energy goes beyond just Miike’s direction, with an ensemble cast that features every trick in the book, from the hilariously deranged Shôta Sometani to the unsettlingly disturbed Sakurako Kinishi and more.
The performances are fantastic all the way across the board, with Sometani and his equally deranged on-screen rival Becky the real standouts of the film.
There are moments where the film doesn’t quite hit the emotional beats it’s aiming for, with an underplayed assessment of childhood trauma in one of its main characters playing out alongside an often underwhelming dramatic tale that sees the film unnecessarily drag on in its last few minutes, attempting to tie up some of its more intimate storylines in more serious fashion.
But as a no-holds-barred, off-the-chain yakuza extravaganza, there are probably few films out there better than First Love.
Exciting, hilarious, action-packed, intricate, unpredictable and delightfully insane throughout, this is a masterpiece of the crime genre, and an absolute joy for fans of ultra-violence, crime intrigue or even just great storytelling. So, that’s why I’m giving First Love an 8.5 overall.