First Love poster

A year ago I reviewed the prolific Takashi Miike’s 100th film; First Love is already his 103rd. It is a deceptive picture, and not simply because the title (and its Valentine’s Day release in the UK) masks Miike’s signature brand of violent weirdness. The setup is a very straightforward crime tale in which a low-level gangster and crooked cop team up to steal drugs from the Yakuza, but it swiftly develops into a farce as nothing goes according to plan. The film’s success depends on how one approaches it. Perhaps surprisingly given its title, the film’s stumbling block is emotional resonance as the budding romance between call girl Yuri and young boxer Leo — thrown together by events around them — never really engages the audience, even if we do sympathise with their situation. As a farce, however, it is wonderfully entertaining, contrivances playing into Miike’s flair for excess with sufficient creativity to keep things fresh. Set over the course of a single night, the frenetic pacing undermines any emotional heft but aids the absurdity. The dramatic core may be hollow, but the offbeat circus around it is thoroughly enjoyable.