Livin’ on a Prayer with Takashi Mike’s First Love

27 Feb

By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Released:
Feb 11, 2020

Well GO USA

Spoiler Alert

Takashi Miike is a filmmaker best known for his wry, dark humour. Some of his best films include the crime-exposition with Ichi the Killer and a live action adaptation of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure which I can only describe as gloriously over the top. My love is with the no-holds barred Full Metal Yakuza. When these movies have a manga (cartoon) grindhouse style approach, I’m usually hooked! In his exploration into the criminal underbelly of Tokyo in First Love has a lot going on, and plenty to pack in! If processing the subtitles is too hard, this region one home video release comes with a dubbed version. I do wonder if the region 2 version comes with Miike’s Japanese commentary though…

I knew I’d be in for a wicked ride with this film when the first few minutes went Highlander (a victim loses his head and he’s still blinking). As for what’s to come in Leo’s (Masataka Kubota of Tokyo Ghoul at his most sympathetic) situation, he gets a lot more than he bargained for when “leaving the ring.” He’s a down on his luck boxer and he falls in love with the wrong woman. Yuri (Sakurako Konishi) is a call girl and an inadvertent courier of illicit drugs. In no time flat, a corrupt cop, a yakuza, his nemesis, and a female assassin are after the two!

Image result for takashi miike first love dvd

The film has the feel of a madcap chase with all the glory of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World. tossed in. It’s the wrong analogy, but that’s what I felt. Ultimately, the tale is about a boy who meets a girl, and Bon Jovi’s hit song instantly comes to mind! While Leo has no guitar, he has his fists to help him get out of a jam. But overall, does he?

There’s even a light paranormal element which felt left field, but it worked. I thought I was watching a neo-noir examination of the dark side of big city life. It happens. As long as you don’t look for it, those unsavoury types won’t be knocking at your door!

The way this movie goes all out in traditional Takashi Miike style includes inserting a glorious stunt without having to pay the budget to pull it off. I won’t say exactly how that part of the car chase sequence is pulled off, but it shows how even anime has become an influence in the visual direction. Very few filmmakers can effectively have that “wow moment” succeed. With anything this auteur is involved in, it’s hard for him to not dazzle. He just enjoys splashing audiences with his unique style of storytelling.

4 Stars out of 5

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