First Love – 8

This kind of hilarious, over-the-top gangster flick is probably common in Japan (indeed, the director Takashi Miike has made almost 100 movies himself), but its sensibility is a rare treat for a New York audience (not to mention Santa Barbara). The casual violence (heads literally rolling), the tough-guy gangster attitude, the all-out gang war are direct modern descendants of the great samurai films of Kurosawa and Mifune. (They even throw in a samurai sword duel as homage.) The story, too, has been told many times before: two innocents – the “first love” of the title – find themselves pursued by three sets of bad guys who mistakenly believe they are hiding a big shipment of meth. Once you figure out who is who, the race to the end is pure joy.

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