Takashi Miike’s Reservoir Dogs

The prolific Takashi Miike (Ichi the Killer) has done it once again with another wildly captivating film. Brilliantly mining humor, surreal action and stylish fun from a yakuza caper, First Love (Hatsukoi) is Miike’s most entertaining film in years. The Japanese director does for the yakuza what Tarantino once did for gangsters with Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

A young boxer (Masataka Kubota) with nothing to lose accidentally saves a prostitute (Sakura Konishi) caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme by the yakuza, leading to a chaotic misadventure for everyone involved. Caught in the middle of a war between the yakuza and a Chinese gang, one long and wild night has more twists and turns than a Guy Ritchie movie. The intricate plot has Tarantino-esque characters converging in a hilariously violent tale.

First Love may not be Takashi Miike’s best film, but it’s certainly one of the most fun and entertaining

Subverting hard-boiled yakuza expectations, Miike’s masterful direction handles an uproarious ensemble cast with characters coming in and out of the sprawling story. Leo has been told he’s dying with a tumor when he accidentally crosses paths with Monica, a girl enslaved to the yakuza as a call girl. Paying off her no-good father’s debts, she’s a hopeless addict. Not your typical lead couple, you can’t help but root for the pair as they get harassed by extremely dangerous characters looking for the missing drugs.

The assured visual storytelling and Miike’s signature style set the wacky but thrilling tone. He’s taken what people loved about Reservoir Dogs and perfected it, crafting several memorable characters with any number of great lines. Going all out with over-the-top violence and a fearlessness born by filmmaking experience, this is great cinema.

First Love may not be Takashi Miike’s best film, but it’s certainly one of the most fun and entertaining. Incredibly cool and packing many great scenes, First Love is in the running for this year’s best movie.

Video

Excellent direction and fine production values create moody but fantastic picture quality. The Japanese production is presented in its native 2.39:1 aspect ratio courtesy of Well GO USA. Running 108 minutes on a BD-25, there’s absolutely nothing amiss in the AVC encode or other elements of the digital transfer. First Love’s 1080p video embraces a few spectacular scenes, including a short anime sequence I won’t spoil.

Black levels are strong, fine detail is fairly high, and there are no visible issues in the sterile elements. It looks like a perfect transfer of a new production made by an experienced filmmaker. Falls short of demo material, but has relatively nice definition and clarity.

The longer Japanese theatrical cut is not included. Included here is the cut made for North America and the UK.

Audio

The original Japanese audio arrives in 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Constantly active throughout the soundstage, the bass has real presence and depth. A potent surround mix immerses listeners in the street life of the city. Big dynamics and intelligible dialogue reproduction make for a satisfying listening experience. Japanese productions tend to skimp on sound design and boisterous surround mixes – First Love is a fine exception.

The strangely comedic English dub is heard in crisp 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio with no obvious advantage over the Japanese audio. Anime fans should recognize the English dub voices, almost all the voice actors have been pulled from the anime world. It’s a professional, competent dub that just didn’t work for me as well as the native Japanese soundtrack. The voices often sound too “young” for the characters and go far too often turning every piece of dialogue into a mood more suited for pure comedy.

Optional English subtitles play inside the scope presentation at all times. Secondary Japanese and English audio options are included in 2.0 Dolby Digital for some reason.

Extras

Well GO USA digs up a couple trailers and nothing more for First Love. The Blu-ray and DVD combo pack includes a slipcover. The BD is coded for Region A.

First Love Teaser Trailer (01:10 in HD)

First Love Trailer (01:52 in HD)

Well GO USA Trailers (05:55 in HD) – Playable from the main menu, trailers for Ip Man 4: The Finale, The Divine Fury, and Freaks play in order.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

First Love
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Japanese director Takashi Miike’s enthralling yakuza adventure packed with laughs and striking characters, reminiscent of Tarantino.

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User Review
4 (1 vote)

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