There can’t be many more influential or interesting movie directors than Takashi Miike.  He hasn’t even reached his 60th birthday and he has made “at least 42” (I’ve put this in quotations because that is exactly what Google told me. He has 104 IMDb director credits to his name and I believe it is nearer 80 when it comes to movies. It seems slightly strange to say I am a fan of a director who I haven’t actually seen half of his films but I am. The ones I have seen I have loved – including Audition, Ichi The Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, One Missed Call – these are fantastic movies. So whenever he has a new one out, I can’t wait to see it.

With that, we come to First Love, a story about a young boxer who has just received some devastating news and a call-girl who is desperate to get out of her depressing life, whose paths cross in the middle of a drug-smuggling scheme. Neither of them is directly involved in the drug-smuggling but they soon become a big part of it. On the base of things, it’s a simple story and even more so because it is set across just one night. Being set in one night gives it this style which means you feel like you have been dropped into the action as it is happening and it’s easy to get caught up in it all.

The action is what it is all about in First Love too.  There are some fantastic shoot-outs and fight scenes that are almost John Wick levels of quality. And with Takashi Miike in the director’s chair the gore and blood you might expect is all here. There’s a decapitation via sword in the opening scene, so that is at least an indicator of what’s to come. The gore does set it apart from many action movies, as well as being a little bonus for horror fans like myself.

But it’s not just about the action. The story, while not complex, draws you in and you’ll be desperate for the protagonists to pull through in the end.

The two main actors put in stand-out performances too. Masataka Kubota as Leo (the boxer) and Sakurako Konishi as Monica (the call girl). Their performances require them to go through a whole range of emotions, to fight, to run and to be both tough and scared. They slowly become this fantastic-to-watch partnership and the chemistry is clear to see.  It’s a really well written, non-obvious relationship.

Around these two leads though are a flurry of interesting and well-acted characters that come flying at the screen at seemingly random times. There is plenty of thought to the chaos, meaning that even a sudden animated sequence involving a car chase seems perfectly at home – in fact it’s one of the highlights of a highly entertaining movie.

If for whatever reason you thought Takashi Miike might be slower down after over one hundred movies, you couldn’t be further from the truth.  This is one of his most action-packed, engrossing and best movies.

Dir: Takashi Miike

Scr: Masa Nakamura

Cast: Masataka Kubota, Sakurako Konishi, Becky

Prd: Muneyuki Kii, Misako Saka, Jeremy Thomas

Music: Koji Endo

DoP: Nobuyasu Kita

Country: Japan

Year: 2019

Runtime: 1h 48min

Signature Entertainment presents First Love in Cinemas, on Blu-ray & DVD from 14th February