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Review: A sweet rom-com is buried under a barrage of bullets in ‘First Date’

A frightened young man and woman in a car at night in the movie "First Date."
Shelby Duclos and Tyson Brown in the movie “First Date.”
(Magnet Releasing)

The Times is committed to reviewing theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Because moviegoing carries risks during this time, we remind readers to follow health and safety guidelines as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

“First Date” begins normally enough for a film befitting that title — once it gets a murder out of the way in the opening minutes of this uneven rom-com/action movie hybrid. Sweet, shy good guy Mike (Tyson Brown, a standout in the cast of unknowns) tries to scrape together the courage to ask his kickboxing neighbor Kelsey (Shelby Duclos) out on a date, but she beats him to the punch. Mike agrees to pick Kelsey up, but alas, he doesn’t have a car (he doesn’t even have an adult bike).

Instead of opting for the truth (or, you know, an Uber), Mike cobbles together $3,000 for a car advertised on Craigslist, but is presented with a different one: a beat-up ’65 Chrysler New Yorker, which he purchases in a panic. He gets far more than he bargained for with the vintage wheels, as it attracts cops, a desperate wife, a violent gang/book club group and an amorous older couple, who all keep interfering with his attempts at a romantic night with his crush.

“First Date” fidgets with nervous energy, driven by snappy edits and a pace that moves Mike from misadventure to misadventure. Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp (who collaborate as directors, writers and producers) appear to have clear affection for Quentin Tarantino’s early work as well as “one crazy night” movies like “Superbad,” “Booksmart” and “After Hours,” but the mash-up of genres and tones leaves the audience with whiplash. There’s sweetness in the burgeoning relationship between Mike and Kelsey, coupled with some hilarious moments, but it all gets lost in a sea of dead bodies and spent shell casings with a bloody climax that takes up too many of its already overlong 103 minutes.

‘First Date’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

Playing: Starts July 2, Landmark Westwood; also available on VOD


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