A young boxer on the brink of death falls in love with a woman caught in the crossfire between yakuza and triad gangs in a fight over stolen drugs.
Dir Takashi Miike
Prod Muneyuki Kii, Jeremy Thomas, Misako Saka
Scr Masaru Nakamura
With Masataka Kubota, Nao Ōmori, Shōta Sometani, Becky, Jun Murakami.
Sales HanWay Films
With English subtitles
Takashi Miike has been taking things easy of late – since his 100th feature Blade of the Immortal (LFF 2017), the prolific Japanese director has only managed to complete three productions. His most recent film, First Love proves that he still had much to explore in the yakuza world, even after 2015’s anarchic, bloody vampire flick-crime movie mash-up Yakuza Apocalypse. However, this time Miike has taken a different route, employing a love story as a counterpoint to the intrigues of the Tokyo underworld. Promising young boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota), who has a recently diagnosed brain tumour, meets Yuri (Sakurako Konishi), a young woman sold into prostitution to pay off her father’s debts. Miike takes his time developing his characters, setting up a complex drug heist – involving a yakuza turncoat, a gang of Chinese triads and a corrupt local cop – with the patience and tension-building detail that Takeshi Kitano showed with his recent Outrage trilogy. But once everyone’s in place, all hell breaks loose; having been sedated with hard drugs, the unwitting Yuri is supposed to take the fall for a double-cross, but instead takes off with Leo in a True Romance-style all-nighter that involves decapitations, shoot-outs and car chases. There’s a shout-out to Toei Studios’ exploitation heyday in the retro opening credits, but First Love is 21st-century Miike through and through.
This is a 18+ screening.