LFF 2019 ‘First Love’ Review: Partying Like It’s 1999

A terminally ill young boxer and a traumatised young drug addict find each other amidst a chaotic drugs war. Dodging bullets and knives and fists, the pair try to survive the night, kick addiction and discover true love.

First Love does recall Miike’s daring 90s work. It’s a crime story, concerning desperate characters caught on either side of a war between different criminal organisations, it features a great deal of Chino-Japanese tension, and it’s incredibly violent. It lacks the cheeky provocateur trappings of his earlier days but has just as much dark humour and momentum. It’s a slightly more mature form of extreme that provides all the laughs without the sour aftertaste.

There are a large number of characters and rival groups involved in the plot which can make it hard to follow in places. Fortunately there are many of Miike’s signature larger than life characters that stick in the memory. A deranged murderous widow, a cold triad assassin, a seemingly immortal sociopath and a hapless corrupt cop are but a few.

First Love is funny and unpredictable thriller with entertaining characters and an engrossing style. It’s a culmination of themes, subjects and techniques developed over a fascinating thirty year career. It’s also a promising example of the kind of youthfully energetic film that can be made by an experienced film maker.

Four Stars

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