Thursday, March 19, 2020

Review: First Love

Release date: September 27, 2019
Running time: 108 minutes
Starring:  Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Takahiro Miura

First Love is a Takashi Miike film, a Japanese filmmaker who has become a prolific director and whose films range from the violent and bizarre to the dramatic and family friendly.  First Love is definitely in the former category.  First Love has several intertwining threads, but the overall story seems to be of a convoluted plot by a young, crazy Yakuza to oust his boss and take over.  Part of this involves intrigue within the gang, influences from a rival Chinese gang, and a crooked cop.  These storylines all intertwine in strange and interesting ways as you follow along during this crime caper.     

First Love's story is definitely convoluted.  It is tough to follow at first because of the number of characters and their varying motivations, but as the stories intertwine, they start to weave a larger plot tapestry.  The stories twist and turn until the final encounter, which culminates in one of the most enjoyable final showdowns I have seen.  It's a perfect encapsulation of this movie and one that is definitely a good payoff.  The film also has some really fantastic music that wonderfully sets the scene when needed.   It is very subtle at first, but man does it make scenes much more exciting.  It also helps to set the mood for some of the more whimsical scenes.  And although the story is tough to follow, the characters that you meet are all unique and interesting.  They all have different motivations and mannerisms, and seeing them interact is part of the fun of this film.

Although First Love does have a lot going on, unfortunately the acting is hit or miss.  Some of the characters are very well acted, and others seem to be overacting for their role.  One character in particular is supposed to be a crazy hothead, but his voice changes noticeably in parts to sound tough and it is just off putting.  And the story is tough to follow at times, but that might be because I am not used to the Japanese underground.  It seemed like the factions were difficult to distinguish, but they also were quite fluid during the film.  And First Love is filmed to look like an older movie, a choice I am sure, but one that looked odd at the start.  It caused me to double check that this film was released recently rather than 20 years ago.    

First Love is a tough film to follow, but those that do will be rewarded with some really interesting characters, fantastic music, and one of the most fulfilling final sequences I have seen in a film. 

Rent it

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