Takashi Miike was once the bad boy of Japanese cinema, making straight-to-video low-budget yakuza flicks that were ultra-violent, blackly comic and inventively mad. Films like “Fudoh: The New Generation” (1996) and “Ichi the Killer” (2001), bore little or no resemblance to genre classics about pure-hearted gangsters starring the famously stoic Ken Takakura. Maniacs indulging in torture sessions and killing sprees were more like it.

Miike’s newest film, “First Love,” is an entertaining throwback to the late 1990s and early 2000s when he was cranking out said cheapies in assembly-line fashion. It is also a shout-out to the classics, not surprising given that the film’s studio is Toei, that one-time yakuza movie powerhouse. Does this mean that Miike, who will turn 60 this year, is becoming conservative in his old age?

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