• First Love (Well Go USA) Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Review

    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: February 11th, 2020.
    Director: Takashi Miike
    Cast: Becky, Mami Fujioka, Sakurako Konishi, Masataka Kubota, Takahiro Miura, Jun Murakami
    Year: 2019
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    First Love – Movie Review:

    Leo (Masataka Kubota) is a young man hoping to make it as a boxer. He’s good with his fists, but he doesn’t quite seem to have what it takes to really climb the ladder, supplementing his winnings by working part time as restaurant worker. After his latest fight, he winds up in the hospital where he gets some bad news – he has a malignant brain tumor. He is upset by this news, of course, and he has to immediately retire from boxing.

    While Leo is dealing with this, a local Yakuza named Kase (Shota Sometani) teams up with Otomo (Nao Omori), a corrupt police officer, to steal a whole lot of drugs Kase’s employers. To do this, they’ll need to steal from two of his associates, but from his girlfriend, Juri (Becky), as well. They pull it off and Otomo tries to pin the robbery on Monica (Sakurako Konishi), Juri’s junkie tenant whose own father sold her into prostitution to pay off some debts, but this brings him face to face with Leo, who thinks he’s doing Monica a solid and saving her. Leo doesn’t realize, of course, that by doing this he’s not only screwed up Kase and Otama’s plan, but put he and Monica both in a lot of danger. The higher ups in Kase’s gang get involved, as do the higher ups in the police, while the introduction of some Chinese gangsters further complicates matters, particularly when they wind up taking the blame for the robbery they had nothing to do with.

    Leo and Monica wind up on the run from the various factions, trying to keep their wits about them and figure out just what exactly they’ve gotten involved with here, all while the cops clash with the Yakuza who clash with the Chinese who clash with the cops who… well, you get the picture.

    If you think of this one a bit like Miike’s take on Tony Scott’s 1993 film True Romance, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. There are similarities in the story to be sure, though this is hardly a remake or even a knock off as Miike definitely puts his own touch on things. The film, like many of the director’s pictures, has its own many touches of humor, often times quite dark, but it does an admirable job of focusing on the characters and making them interesting to the audience. Yes, the violence and occasional bursts you expect from a Miike-lensed gangster film are all here, and some of these moments are quite memorable, but Leo and Monica’s plight seems real enough to work because they’re properly fleshed out and seem very human. Likewise, we get to know Kase, Otomo and Juri well enough to make them interesting as well.

    The central conflicts that propel the plot are nicely staged and cleverly thought out. Miike’s attention to detail is strong in this picture, and violence, a trademark of his work, is used effectively to punctuate certain moments in the picture (an early decapitation scene is both shocking and funny and quite an interesting way to kick things off!).

    First Love – Blu-ray Review:

    First Love comes to Blu-ray from Well Go USA framed at 2.35.1 in AVC encoded 1080p high definition taking up 20GBS of space on the 25GB disc. There are no complaints here, really. Some really minor compression artifacts can be spotted in some of the darker scenes but they aren’t distracting. Detail looks quite strong through, there are no issues with dirt or debris of any kind. Skin tones look good and colors are handled nicely. Black levels area strong as well.

    Audio options are provided in both English and Japanese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks as well as English and Japanese language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks, with subtitles provided in English only. The Japanese lossless track is the way to go here as it features the cast delivering their own dialogue. The English dubbing takes away from the movie a bit. Regardless, both of the 5.1 tracks offer plenty of surround activity throughout. Bass response is pretty solid as well. No problems with any hiss or distortion to note and the levels are nicely balanced.

    Extras are limited to a trailer and teaser trailer for the feature, menus and chapter selection. Trailers for a few other Well Go USA properties (IP Man 4, The Divine Fury and Freaks) play before the main menus load. As this is a combo pack release, we also find a DVD tucked away inside the keepcase. A slipcover is also included.

    First Love – The Final Word:

    First Love is pretty great. It’s an energetic and engaging film filled with interesting characters set to a great soundtrack with strong production values. Well Go USA’s Blu-ray release is light on extras but it does look and sound very good. This is worth checking out – recommended!

    Click on the images below for full sized First Love Blu-ray screen caps!