EVIL Fillets Family Strife. “Broil” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)

Chance Sinclair is a rebellious 17-year-old closeted lesbian and Catholic student.  After a couple of school related incidents she didn’t instigate, Chance’s parents send her to live with her despotic grandfather, August Sinclair, despite her parents’ reluctance.  August rules with an iron-fist not only with his grandchildren, but with his entire family of powerful elitists who have a dark secret – they’re actually soul harvesting demons preying on the malintents around the world and is headed by August.   When Chance’s parents want out of the family business and reclaim their daughter from August’s authoritative grip, they hire a culinary prodigy with a skill for assassinations for a grand dinner that’ll have the whole family in attendance.  Chance is ignorant of her family’s history and the balance of power is not the only stake served on the menu, but also Chance’s very soul hangs in the very midst of the Sinclair’s family game night of internal carnage. 

Like a Gothic storybook enclosed with deception, murder, and unhallowed demons at their last supper, “Broil” is a going to hell in a handbasket supernatural feast and an unholy coming-to-age sophomore feature from by the upcoming “Cosmic Sin” writer-director Edward Drake and co-written alongside Piper Mars.  The 2020 Canadian murder-for-hire thriller vies against the stylish similarities of the “Twilight” saga with well-groomed, well-off, and sophisticated groups of strangers bound as family from supernatural circumstances, but distills itself out the frivolous teeny-bop pulp and teen heartthrobs for a modestly R-rated cutthroat kindred melodrama by the netherworld’s most notorious soul-suckers, shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  “Broil” Is produced by “Cabin Fever 2:  Spring Fever” executive producer, Corey Large, and first time producer Kashif Pasta with 308 Entertainment (“It Follows”) and Good Complex serving as production companies. 

“Broil” doesn’t denote a lead character at the heart of this story, but pinpoints principles along a chaptered structure, signifying their importance by following them with an objective point of view.  The whole setup begins with the granddaughter, Chance Sinclair, who a bit rough around the edge and doesn’t play with her schoolmates, especially having an affinity for the same sex while being a student in a Catholic school, but that factoid doesn’t blossom into thing though be noted a couple of times.  Instead, Chance, played by Avery Konrad in her first principle character role, struggles with her teenage angst and hormones like any more adolescent, but she finds her educational woes pale in comparison under her family’s archaic secret ruled by the patriarchal domination of August Sinclair, a ruthless enforcer and head of the family business brought to an autocratic fruition by Irish actor Timothy V. Murphy (“Snowpiercer” television series). While Chance and August strongly convey a presence in the first act, Jonathan Lipnicki reins in the latter acts in an unexpressed spectrum performance of Sydney “The Chef” Lawson, a calculating killer taking out the transgressional trash informed by a mentor and father-like man named Freddie Jones, “Jason vs. Freddy’s” Lochlyn Munro, who may or may not have ulterior motives in exploiting The Chef’s gift for murder. Lipnicki’s work is a culinary delight in as much as The Chef’s actually culinary expertise, braising the character to eventually be the mainstay character. There are other exigent roles that seem important, but are only keystones that hold more principles roles from crumbling, such as Chance’s parents, June (Annette Reilly “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) and December (Nels Lannarson “The Cabin in the Woods”) Sinclair, who initiate the murder-for-hire spark that set things in motion. Rounding out “Broil” is Corey Large, Megan Peta Hill, Abby Ross, Jenna Berman, Phoebe Miu, Alyson Bath, David Hennessey, John Cassini, and Kyra Zagorsky.

Playing out in chapters, “Broil” feels like a murder-mystery adapted from a on fleek novel written by a panache author from Switzerland, but from what I’ve researched, “Broil” is an original narrative only to be segmented to amass refined character details and redirect turn of events as they unfold. However, the chaptering aspect veers the narrative off course, careening “Broil” more toward edit oblivion that doesn’t layer the foundation properly causing as much confusion as the inhuman characters trying to decide whether the Sinclairs are either vampires, demons, witches, or some kind of incubus-succubus blend for a better part of the film. A theme that doesn’t withstand the pressures of Drake’s zigzag directional layout is the unholy atmosphere the Sinclair’s protrude into the world. Chance, who is ignorant of her lineage and of what she really is, turns crosses upside down, turns crucifix necklaces ablaze, and her family sends her unusual gifts like parceled decorated daggers as seen on sacrificial stones, but the satanic tropes cease to do little more than be hints bound to expose the Sinclair’s true selves and really nothing to do with Satan himself, leaving much of the Sinclair powers left unexplained, like their lightning speed and pulsating purple glow that illuminates in patches under the skin (another “Twilight” element?). The acting is palpable, even if it’s melodramatic and under a slew of unlikeable characters, and the story does throw a few notable curve balls, some wickedly diabolical knuckle curves involving eating a child, to intrigue an inch by inch progression of the story. “Broil” unsheathes moments of Gothic schadenfreude, but the moments are fleeting, too short and far in between, to swimmingly bask in the horror of demonic soul snatchers in the throes of a murderous coup d’état.

A delicacy unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, “Broil” is served onto a Blu-ray release as the plat de jour distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment. The unrated film is region A coded and presented in high-definition, 1080p, of a 16:9 widescreen format. Details on the image render very soft, undiscerning outlines that infuse where a person ends and the background begins, but as the lighting choices change from flared hues to more hard lighting, profiles are to take more shape. Director of photography Wai Sun Cheng, making his introduction into feature films, keeps the focus primary in the foreground, obscuring the backdrop just enough to make it still perceivable and mixes well in the extreme close ups with wide angled shots to not be a one trick cinematographer. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has severe troubles with Hugh Wielenga’s score tremendously overpowers everything else with a profound overlap. The composition is so unbalanced and loud that the resonating LFE completely drowns out the dialogue at times. “Broil” does not contain any feature specific special features other than a static menu containing upcoming previews of other Well Go USA films. Despite the title and the infernal nature, “Broil” is a dish served too cold with an unsavory plot of a young woman’s coming of age tribulations in midst of family squabbles and treachery that Edward Drake couldn’t quite fuse together.

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EVIL’s Off the Train and onto the “Peninsula” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Digital Screener)


For four years after the initial zombie outbreak, a unified Korean peninsula is completely quarantined from the rest of the world with the remaining survivors having to fend for themselves. A former Korean Captain, Jung Seok, who was one of the last survivors to escape pre-quarantine and now lives in Hong Kong, is hired for a four man team to return to the peninsula and retrieve an unmarked and abandoned truck stowed with $20 million dollars in U.S. currency. With a promise from a Hong Kong mafia boss to keep part of the loot for their recovery services in order to start a new life, the team agrees to the terms and embarks on the seemingly succeed mission only to find survivors who have gone mad, pillaging their mission and conscripting them into a malicious betting game of survival in a watery pit full of zombies.

The highly anticipated sequel to South Korea’s 2016 sleeper zombie hit, “Train to Busan,” docks into U.S. theaters and VOD services on August 21st and is entitled simply, “Peninsula.” From the bullet train rails to the a devastated Korean port, the predecessor film’s director, Yeon Sang-ho, returns with a zombie overrun post-apocalypse that completely metastasized Korean derived from a biological agent quickly spreading throughout the two cinematically unified, North and South Korea. Joo-Suk Park returns as co-writer alongside Yeon to provide heart clenching, brutal action-horror suspense and a human sense of selfless compassion that won the hearts of many genre fans with “Train to Busan.” Zombie hordes rampage down streets, alleyways, and toppling over cars, fences, and other structures as a collective flesh easting unit that specializes in dominating and ravaging for the pure motive of infection and while that sounds all hip and cool that the “War World Z” and “I Am Legend” running zombie pandemonium makes for a glitzy entertainment feedbag, the Next Entertainment World and RedPeter Film production punches down on the gas pedal of gaslighting audiences with more of a “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” with zombies, revving more to the tune of an exasperated exhaust rather than finishing strong with gripping storytelling.

As a standalone film, the story doesn’t return the surviving characters from “Train to Busan.” Instead, a whole new set of characters reset the parameters of expectations, starting with the guilty conscious of the grief-stricken ex-soldier, Jung Seok, played by Dong-won Gang, who will star in Scott Mann’s upcoming disaster film “#tsunami.” Seok’s a reserved and stoic individual whose good a gun play, but isn’t the thinker when a plan is needed in place and while Dong-won Gang gives a par performance, the overall package of the lead character is sorely two-dimensional. This leaves room for other characters flourish, such as the mother and children Seok attempts to save on a second go-around. The mother, played by Lee Jung-hyun, has more grit that clearly defines her underlining hope for not only her salvation, but also her children who’ve known nothing but death, destruction, and meaning of being devoured growing up in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. On the slim change of success, she implements a plan to infiltrate Unit 631, former military turned murderous scavengers, to steal back a satellite phone and a truck full of cash while not becoming zombie chow or get caught in Unit 631’s sadistic survival methods. That brings us to the villains, the real villains, where are not the zombies, but the section 8 soldiers of Unit 631, Captain Seo (Koo Kyo-hwan) and Sergeant Hwang (Kim Min-jae). Though Seo and Hwang bring internal tension to the table, a mental game of cutthroat chess, they’re inevitably soft against the main threat, a combined effort of Jung= Seok and Min-jung, and don’t spill enough blood and craziness onto the screen to make them worthy of the antagonist position. “Peninsula” rounds out the cast with Kim Do-yoon, Lee Re, Lee Ye-won, Moon Woo-jin and Bella Rahim.

As almost methodical as it is with any second film in a series, “Peninsula” failed to be a rejuvenating and transcending sequel to “Train to Busan,” abandoning the first story’s benevolence for CGI flair that extends to not only the zombie hordes, but to the car chases. As excellent as the rendered zombies are slammed against the drifting cars can be represented, in what “Peninsula” can be described as an “Escape from L.A.” meets “Land of the Dead” meets “Mad Max: The Road Warrior,” the cars themselves are a product of computer imagery with little authentic driving happening. While the effects are not bad (they’re pretty good chiefly obscured by dim lit night scenes), the sensation of being scammed can’t be ignored as the vehicles operate unnaturally and maneuver in impossible situations without blowing a tire or upending or just frankly be dead in the water with an overheated and stress tussled engine that frags zombies left and right, becoming a collective character to have the highest kill count. That disingenuous feeling also spreads to the overly long-winded ending that tries really, really hard to capture a courageously defiant and heroic moment of family and personal redemption and much of the blame lies on director Yeon Sang-ho with a drawn out awkwardness and edit that made it seem satirical. In light of some positive words for “Peninsula,” the zombies are a greater, gigantic force that swarm on a colossally epic scale more so than the much more compact “Train to Busan” and, as aforementioned, the structured CGI isn’t of the degraded detail variety so the hordes never look cheap or obviously artificial alongside the more palatable, practical versions. What’s also interesting about “Peninsula” and what makes it separate from “Train to Busan,” which perhaps laid the foundation for, is “Peninsula” has integrated the western counterparts as English speaking actors chime in as U.S. Military, U.N. peacekeepers, or English mafia bosses based in the U.K. This challenges the Korean actors to speak a few different languages, especially English, inclining “Peninsula” as more of a global problem than an isolated Korean one.

The zombie genre isn’t just defined by the ungodly amount of undead bodies reaping the world of every living soul, but is also defined by the diversity of chaos-driven social structures people find themselves confronted with in the action-heavy “Peninsula,” arriving into U.S. theaters on August 31 and distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment. This review will not contain the A/V aspects of the release as it’s a theatrical screening of the feature, but the theater specs will look something like this: projection is in scope lens format at an aspect ratio of a widescreen 2.39:1, a surround sound 5.1 stereo mix, Korean/English/Cantonese language with English subtitles, and has a runtime of just under two hours at 116 minutes. I will note that some scenes are very dark, but this only adds to the complete blackout of a civically desolated Korean peninsula. From fast trains to fast cars, “Peninsula” has retained the adrenaline popping rampant style with weaving, bobbing, and chassis chucking zombie bodies like the ball in a pinball machine despite a facile approach, but is ultimately missing that down-to-Earth social context complexity aimed to provoke thought and shed a few tears as an inferior part two of the “Train to Busan” universe.

They Say There Are No Bad Children, But This is One “EVIL Boy” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / DVD)


Igor and Polina suffer through every parents’ worst nightmare; their son, Vanya, has gone missing. Three years later, Igor arranges an orphanage visit on the outskirts of Moscow to make Polina happy again by possibly adopting a young child, but their visit is cut short when Polina discovers the gruesome dead body of a basement keeper and a savage child barred away in a dungeon-like room. Polina is instantly imprinted by the child and convinces Igor to adopt him despite the difficult malnourishment and animal like behavior, but over the course of time, the child exhibits signs of behaving like their missing son and even starting to look like Vanya, their missing son’s name Polina has now bestowed upon the child against Igor’s wishes. As the feral child shows more signs of acclimating to his new life, Igor and Polina sense something more sinister from the child whose resembling more and more like Vanya every day and begin investigating into their adopted son’s origins, a well-kept dark secret guarded by the convent orphanage.

From examining horror films from our Northern neighbors in Canada to crossing the oceans and landing in Eastern Europe of the birthplace of Vodka, Russia, we’ll be taking a look at two recently released and storied dissimilar upcoming horror movies from Russia Federation, beginning with the belief that no country is exempt from the creepy kid genre in this Russian 2019 allegory entitled “Evil Boy” as the debut film from writer-director Olga Gorodetskaya. Also known as “Stray” world-wide or “Tvar” in the original dialect, “Evil Boy” is straight-forward, focus group approved, vanilla title of a story from one of Russia’s celebrated modern novelist and screenwriter, Anna Starobinets. Also dubbed as Russia’s “Queen of Horror,” Starobinets is a prolific adolescent thriller writer whose credits includes the compilation of short, chilling stories entitled “The Awkward Age” with the featured tale of a young boy’s life diary expressed through the voice of an ant colony living inside his body and the queen his brain as a conduit for her commands. “Evil Boy” is a production from a conglomeration of companies including Yandex Studio, Cinema Foundation of Russia, Dublab, and Reason 8 Films.

The titular character of Stray or Vanya allows no audience insight and we’re impelled into the perception of the grieved parents, Polina Belova (Elena Lyadova) and more so with the father, Igor Belov (Vladimir Vdovichenkov). While director Olga Gorodetskaya is new to the scene, the chemistry of Lyadova and Vdovichenkov have well been established from a baseline foundation set from their prominent collaborative roles in Andrey Zvyagintsev’s powerful small town corruption film, “Leviathan.” Their dynamic transcends a range of individual performances from crime into the horror realm with parents going through the stripping loss of a child that has compromised their marriage to the point of desperation to the eventual short term passion that has rekindled with the adoption of the Stray, a primal role befitting young Sevastian Bugsev in his introductory feature film. Giving Bugsev credit would be such an underwhelming praise as the eight year old not only nailed the savage child performance, but also endured an aggregation of makeup that gradually transforms his character over time. What’s interesting between the three actors is that they form this family love-triangle of sorts, where Polina embraces the child, but then is frightened of it and in a role reversal, Igor is skeptical of the child, but then tries to love him unconditionally. Just in that square footage, the amount of flux emotions and mindsets can favor one side over the other; yet, the actors pull it off, almost too well, creating a an unrest of feelings, conversations, and approaches to their characters. Key supporting roles include performances another fellow “Leviathan” thespian, Evgenly Tsyganov, as well as Roza Khayrullina, Konstantin Topolaga, Anna Ukolova, and Evgenly Antropov.

“Evil Boy” has some psychology behind it. Hell, even a few of the film’s posters are composited of Rorschach tests and what “Evil Boy” ultimately boils down to is how we interpret our grief of a loved one. Polina and Igor are written to exhibit multiple signs of the clinically coined Complicated Grief that follow the patterns of avoiding the reality of death, persisting nothing has changed, and a bleak numbness to the event. The motif of trying to replace something dear with something else, as a comforting mechanism, is consistently brought to attention and goes as far as leaving a forlorn image of the same motif as a finale twist to drop an atomic loop of melancholic isotopes on you. The psyche portion of the “Evil Boy” is as equally important as the evil boy himself as it’s only a representation of our characters’ will and grief, but whether it’s Starobinets story or Gorodetskaya’s script or both, “Evil Boy” has a yawning plot hole regarding the boy’s origins that’s briefly represented with a dialogue-less scene of cataclysmic and ritualistic images jumbled together for your mind to piece. This sort of passive logic translates equally to the unpalatable editing that plunges the story into a fit of turnaround key moments unable to linger and build upon and stress character developments and form audience relations. Much of the psychology the “Evil Boy” tries to impress is squandered by Gorodetskaya fleeting approach structure that can’t even be tied together by the genuine abstract creature itself when it’s grossly mutilated CGI blunder finally makes a grand entrance.

In the height of the “Sputnik” invasion that’s currently sweeping the Russian horror charts world-wide, explore into the inner space of an anguished mindset melded with conjured up changeling European folklore and you get “Evil Boy” on DVD courtesy of Well Go USA Entertainment come September 8th. The DVD is presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, that renders Ilya Ovsenev’s eerie and shadowy atmospherics, distinct in their own rite, between the sterile urban Moscow and the wooded outlier town where the parenting couple has a home in each to be alien to not only the child but also to the inhabiting parents. Ovsenev’s framing is poignant and harrowing, adding dread much needed to stir into the creature child. The image quality is relatively sharp, but there are moments of obvious color banding, such as around headlights, that suggests a lower bit compression that comes and goes with the nature of the scene. The Russian language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound rollicks in an immense range of sounds from the primal animal snarls of the young boy to car wreckage to the soft cries of a whimpering mother despite seemingly having a even-keeled tone storyline that should simmer with tension rather than overflow with nonstop action. The dialogue is clear and forefront available and the soundtrack lulls as a sleepy version of standard genre fare. English subtitles and dub track are available with the former show no sign of asynchronous harmony and no sign of errors in spelling or in timing. The only bonus feature available in the static menu is the trailer amongst trailers for other Well Go USA Entertainment releases. Perhaps, what could be construed as the Russian equivalent to Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” “Evil Boy” buries to reanimate suppressed grief through inclinations of folklore and psychosomatic ringers embodied by one creepy as hell kid.

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Shady Organizations Flush Out EVIL in “The Witch: Subversion” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)


High school teenager Ko Ja-yoon lives with her adopted parents on a struggling cow farm. Ja-yoon‘s amnesia struggles with recollecting her past, she’s plagued with severe headaches, and suffers to retain any strength in her body. When her best friend persuades her to enter a popular singing contest, Ja-yoon’s nationally televisions performance triggers a covert agency to seek her out, dispatching Korean-American hitmen with supernatural abilities and local hit squad agents to track her down to either capture her alive or kill her. As the devious factions close in on her, placing her family in great danger, her past begins to unravel, revealing a troubling truth regarding who she really is and what she’s capable of effectuating.

Not to be confused as a sequel to Robert Eggers’ critically acclaimed, Americana gothic folklore tale “The Witch” from 2016, Park Hoon-jung’s “The Witch: Part 1 – The Subversion” diverges itself as the tenebrous action-mystery of a two-part film series from South Korea. Entitled “Manyeo” in the native Korean tongue, “The Witch” refers to a moniker bestowed upon the agency acquired children provided with genetically enhanced brains to open up their full, existential potential of God-like violence shrouded in the murky shadows and cutthroat conspiracies. “I Saw The Devil” writer Park also pens the script for his produced 2018 film that resupplies the darkness of a detective noir into another fantasy thriller furnished with a bloody veneer of a R-rated superhero movie. Gold Moon Film and A Peppermint and Company co-produce the Warner Bros. Pictures distributed picture.

Starring as the titular character, Koo Ja-yoon as The Witch, is South Korean actress Kim Da-mi making her introductory debut that’s considerably demanding for the early 20’s actress to tackle with little-to-none prior experience in “Avengers” level action, but that’s where the subversion sets in when Kim undermines with a body frail tool performance, throwing pity bait to sucker in the bigger fish, and then opening her ranges to play on the opposite side of the spectrum in a slim, but killer, authoritative absolute suit. Ja-yoon’s American counterparts are equally as intriguing with Korean-Canadian actor, Choi Woo-shik (“Train to Busan”) leading the pack of vicious and powerful mercenaries. Choi’s monstrous 2019 lineup of award-winning (“Parasite”) and action-packed (“The Divine Fury“) films set “The Witch” up for inherent success in a now powerful and versatile recognized Korean film market. Upstaging has a strong aurora inside Korean filmmaking as every scene invokes an intense stare, an action of grandeur, and dialogue – every actor has lots and lots of dialogue – and so, bold performances stand out from the remaining cast list who includes Jo Min-soo (“The Cursed“) as the prideful genetics doctor, K-pop’s 2Eyes band member Daeun as the cut from the same cloth American-Korean super villain, Go Min-se as Ja-yoon’s bestie, and Park Hee-soon as the curious Mr. Choi with a vendetta against all who are enhanced.

“The Witch: Part 1 – Subversion” is over two hours of grand chess and superhuman stratagem culminating at a writ large do-or-die finale. Even with a 125 minute runtime, Park Hoon-jung has to inertly cram a whole lot of story into a seemingly abundance and bountiful timeframe. As the staggering conspicuous tension builds and characters evolve into an elucidated light, scenes start stepping into confounding placement that bedevil slightly the storyline. If you’re able to piecemeal together the puzzle and able to follow casually, Park is able to eventually reel captivation back from surmountable follies of structure with flashbacks and, in this case, a generous amount of exposition to get viewers on track once again. The prodigious action rivals the Marvel movies of today with complimenting cannonade and psychokinesis while ushering in a heroine tapped from same vein as “Hannah” or “Lucy” into the Korean moving pictures.

Warner Bros Pictures and Well Go USA Entertainment entertain us with GMO action in “The Witch: Part 1 – Subversion” on a single format Blu-ray home video release presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, on a region A, BD25 disc. What I really like about Well Go USA releases are the consistencies of arrangements. The brightly lit, natural landscapes are vivid, floaty, and serene as if all of life is an idyllic safe haven for visual leisure. The black, almost gun metal black, of the nighttime segments render a more sinister and unfavorable approach to arms and danger likely ahead. Some posterization occurs during these moments, but little-to-no ill effect to the scenes themselves. Some of the chunkiness to the visual effects stem from combative action of the genetically altered, fighting against the slower normals with their high caliber, fully-automatic rifles and, also, against themselves, but these battles are interspersed to not violate audiences corneas to beyond the max extent of the natural law. The Korean language DTS-HD Master Audio mix offers a wide range of varied leveled action, from the mundane ambience of rural and urban life to the precision of activity during the more upbeat commotion of fight sequences and gunplay in tighter quarters. Dialogue placement renders nicely and is prominent while the option English subtitles captures beautifully with well synced and timed captioning. Bonus features three trailers which are two international trailers and one U.S. trailer. If Part 2 is anything like “Subversion,” the game of deceit will continue to unfold surprises one after another and beguile with the mysteries surrounding “The Witch’s” genetically invasive backstory that’s inherently pervading throughout, leaving an agape of wonderment, intrigue, and thrills.

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Death Fears No EVIL in Takashi Miike’s “First Love” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)


Orphaned boxer Leo grows up to be an up-and-coming star in the sport. After losing a match by TKO from a soft punch, Leo is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor that sends himself into despair. In another part of town, the established yakuza and the imported Chinese mafia boil toward an inevitable war over turf and drugs. When Kase, a junior enforcer, betrays his yakuza family, scheming with a crooked cop to steal drugs for profitable gain, the tide turns blood red as the yakuza naively blames the Chinese. Caught in the middle is a drug addicted prostitute named Monica, a slave to the yakuza for her father’s past mishaps, who is kept locked away in a small apartment overseen by a yakuza lackeys, romantic couple Yasu and Julie, that also use the apartment to control drug flow. When Kase plan to raid the apartment and steal the drugs goes array, Yasu winds up dead and Monica escapes, running into Leo who has nothing left to live for except to protect Monica. A distraught-induced psychotic Julie, the deadly yakuza, the Chinese Mafia, a double-crosser and his crooked cop partner, a delusional girl of the night, and one apathetic boxer clash in a single night’s ultraviolet web.

Extreme Japanese auteur Takashi Miike fastens a lively tongue-and-cheek and supremely savage crime thriller in his latest mad yakuza film, amiably entitled, “First Love,” also known “Hatsukoi.” “First Love” is anything but friendly and pleasant as the street of Tokyo run red with blood or else the 2019 released film wouldn’t be a Takashi Miike trademark special. Penned by Miike’s long time collaborator, Masa Nakamura, the filmmaker’s affection for horror eludes this title that hones more toward the unpleasantries of clan betrayals, snarky criminal shenanigans, and, of course, a flavor for mega violence that become a maelstrom angrily surrounding a demoralized boxer and the victimized forced-into-prostitution young woman he aims to selfishly protect while in his mental clout regarding his mortality. Produced by OLM, Inc production company headquartered in Tokyo takes a step away from manga with “First Love,” a step that has been evolved over the last few years, but may have contributed to some of the illustrated content that seemingly has infiltrated into the third act with an initial explosiveness in the beginning portions of a car chase scene.

Cast as Leo Katsuragi, the boxer, is Masataka Kubota, a familiar face from another Miike film, “13 Assassins,” and most recently from the heavily Japanese cultured specter feature, ‘Tokyo Ghoul.” Leo’s lighter weight physique and fresh face has Masataka look the part of a promising fighter whose positioned for fame early into the story, but that framework comes to a screeching halt when he’s destined for a tumorous death. When Leo is coupled with Monica, a drug addicted forced in prostitution plagued with crippling hallucinations side effects, the repressed Leo finds himself sheltering someone with more burden on her shoulders than upon his own. Monica’s portrayed by Sakurako Konishi in what’s essentially her first major role and being paired as a scared, lonely, and crazy character coupled with a stoic vet in Masataka makes for an easy dynamic. Shôta Sometani’s chin deep in trouble Kase goes without saying that Sometani’s unfathomable range and charisma adds an aloof comic relief along with Kase’s dishonest detective slipped covertly into by “Ichi the Killer” himself, Nao Ohmori and pursued by a retribution spirited girlfriend, Julie, of her slain yakuza boyfriend; a role spearheaded with such energy and gusto from Rebecca Eri Rabone, credited solely as Becky, who has a slight Cynthia Rothrock vibe. “First Love” is no slave to boorish performances from Takahiro Miura (“Shin Godzilla”), Cheng-Kuo Yen, Sansei Shiomi, and Mami Fujioka.

“First Love” emerges as a smart and fun battle royal of decimation in the anarchist criterion. One would think a prolific director such as Takashi Miike would wear out his welcome with tired and stale filmic bread, crumbling with every soggy rinse and repeat. That’s not the case with “First Love.” Why is it entitled “First Love” anyway, you ask? The question’s open for viewer interpretation, much like most of Miike’s suggestive elegant style, and presents an illuminating unexplored journey in itself. A ventured guess would be that Leo and Monica have never experienced the feeling previously in either content or a labored life with Leo being an impassive athlete and Monica an escort since high school. The corollary of bumping into each other by chance results in the unorthodox dismantling of two rival criminal organizations, baring then an age-old theme of love conquers all and renders the mystics of destiny fueled from from within all the way easter egging sexual taboos inside his brazen, sometimes insane, transgression storyline. Either way, Takashi Miike helms a tremendous brutal-comedy that brands him as being the Martin Scorsese of Japanese filmmaking.

Blades, guns, and a fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, “First Love” has mainstream aptitude with a carnage driven crime syndicate finesse and is now available on a two-disc, dual format Blu-ray and DVD release from Well Go USA Entertainment. Encased in a slipcover, the not rated feature is presented in full HD, 1080p, and in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio. This review will focus it’s review on the Blu-ray quality. Much of Miike’s style is neo-noir basking in very grounded color palette that’s occasionally adorned by the neon brights of Tokyo. Often does Miike composite in his work and “First Love” is no exception with a brief manga nearly a rallying ending; the illustration is super sharp, a visual pop of blue and white, and, obviously, clean. Ultra-fine details add to a prizing fatalism and even the tasteful gore, on a granular level, passes the screen test. Some scenes appear sleeker than others inside a dark scope coded with darker shades of green and yellow, but the overall result smothers any kind of inconsistency. The Japanese and Chinese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks savor every last audiophile morsel. The clear dialogue renders nicely, big effects and action sequences offer a wide range, and the depth covers more than enough ground surrounded by hustle and bustle of the urban element. Kôji Endô’s enchantingly lethal score will immerse you right into the mix and provide a slick culture twist upon classical composition. The English subtitles are well paced and mostly accurate as I did catch one grammatical mistake. Incased inside a slight embossed titled cardboard slipcover, the release also offers a teaser and a theatrical run trailer. Cynical on the surface and romantically submersible to the core, “First Love” is a Takashi Miike instant favorite of amusing antagonism and shorn almost completely of genial garments.

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