"...a truly awesome action/horror film as well as a intriguing character study and a biting commentary on society."
- Lucy Is Red
Battle Royale (2000)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Producer: Akio Kamatani, Tetsu Kayama, Masumi
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Takeshi Kitano, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Yuko Miyamura
Running Time: 114 min.
Plot: An explosive film about a class of teenagers who are stranded on an island and forced to kill one another -- or be killed.
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
ALEXANDER'S REVIEW: Battle Royale entertained me, but it didn't quite blow me away like I expected based on the couple year's worth of hype I'd endured before finally shelling out a few bucks for a crappy VCD copy of the film. After sitting through 90 minutes or so worth of grainy, pixilated footage; the changing of the two discs in my player; and WAY too many white subtitles on white backgrounds, this is what I thought of BR:
*The weapons weren't nearly as varied as I expected. A few knives. A sickle. A Mac-10. Some handguns. A crossbow. *yawn* Where the hell were the flamethrowers? RPGs? Boulder-flinging catapults? Brass knuckles? With all the controversy surrounding the film's violence, it was disappointing to see most of the carnage perpetrated by GUN-toting kids. Ho-hum.
*The "unlucky" pot lid was pretty imaginative (and useful, amazingly).
*The video the children are forced to watch that explains the rules of the "game" is absolute genius and was my favorite portion of the film. The sunny demeanor of the video's host and the bubbly presentation of such grim information was perversely enjoyable. The scene is so well-crafted and twisted, I watched it twice.
*The tallying of the dead -- "22 to go" -- is another fun, albeit macabre, detail that constantly reminds the viewer that the filmmakers aren't taking any of this too seriously.
*The characters are varied and the filmmakers welcomingly avoided using the most obvious teen stereotypes. Sure, we have the nerds, the slut, the rebellious bad boys (two of 'em), the lovers, the Girl With Crush on Unsuspecting Boy, and a host of others; but because they are all dressed somewhat alike and are collectively somewhat average looking (no bulked up super-jocks or nerds with the horn-rimmed glasses), BR has an eerie aura of real-ness about it (an aura shared by the equally disturbing -- and highly recommended -- Korean film, Memento Mori).
BR wasn't quite what I expected, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Had the film been too grim -- too SERIOUS -- I probably would have been turned off by it. Instead, it's FUN, despite the obviously controversial subject matter and copious amounts of gore. In fact, I'll probably buy a quality DVD version of the film, as I did with Memento Mori.
ALEXANDER'S RATING: 8.5/10
- Ma Fratelli, "The Goonies"
A film which would probably cause street riots in ultra-P.C. America, Battle Royale is the story of a group of 9th graders herded onto an evacuated island and forced to kill each other off. Survivors? As Christopher Lambert said in Highlander, "Dere can be only one." More than one surviving kid at the end of three days spells doom for them all, since everyone is fitted with an electronic collar which can be detonated by the adults running the game. Furthermore, the battlefield grows smaller all the time, since "danger zones"...sections of the island where collars will immediately go off...are established at regular intervals.
There's a rather perverse sense of humor at work here, perhaps best exemplified by the soothing, well-known pieces of classical music that comprise much of the soundtrack and the cheerful cutie-pie young woman who explains the rules of the game to the bewildered students on an instructional video shown to them by their 7th grade teacher Kitano (Beat Takeshi), who takes grim satisfaction in watching the body count go up since so many of these brats gave him all sorts of shit when he was stuck with them. Payback's a bitch, ain't it, you little turds?
I'd be surprised if a lot of people didn't fantasize about being part of such a thing when THEY were in high school while watching this movie; wondering who would fare how well, who would win, who would commit suicide rather than participate (feh!), and so forth. Me? Well, on a level playing field, I would have won on sheer hatred alone since the vast majority of my 9th grade classmates were no less despicable than Hitler himself. Ah, but I said a LEVEL playing field. In Battle Royale, each kid is given a survival kit which includes a RANDOM weapon, some of which really aren't weapons at all...and with my bastard luck, I would have gotten a box of Q-Tips while everyone else got a fucking rocket launcher. "Hey you, hold still while I stick this into your ear and jab your brain. If it doesn't kill you, or at least cut your I.Q. in half, don't fake it. I'll know."
As intriguing as the premise is, the thing that keeps Battle Royale from being a truly great movie is that some of the kids absolutely refuse to accept the reality of their situation even after seeing classmates get stabbed, shot, decapitated, and so forth (yes folks, it DOES show this stuff). There are too many goody-two-shoes characters to really make us believe that the purpose of the game, as Kitano says, is to eliminate the "bad eggs" who are helping the country along on its merry way to Hell. It's kind of like one of those painful teen slasher movies sometimes; "NO! DON'T GIVE HER THE STUN GUN, YOU STUPID BITCH!! SHE'S GONNA...THERE! YOU SEE? GAH! I WARNED YOU!!!"
Also, there are too many instances where a dying character makes one last speech before closing their eyes and going to that big detention room in the sky. These tend to get longer and more ridiculous as the movie progresses. Almost NOBODY just falls over and dies like logic dictates they should; there's always some last bit of dialogue that they just HAVE to spit out before they bite it (or at least there's a prolonged look of horror on their faces). It won't take you long to stop giving a crap what these people have to say. It's also worth noting that Chigusa inexplicably puts on a yellow sweatsuit and goes for a jog without a care in the world right in the middle of the game (her "you scarred my face" scene is pretty cool, though; she's one of the better actresses) and the transfer student with the messy hair, who is playing just for fun, has a seemingly limitless amount of ammunition for his machine gun. And, there are too many secret crushes. Perhaps this is because a lot of the gals were chosen not for their acting ability but for (surprise) their appearances. I kinda doubt that the average Japanese 9th grade class has as much concentrated cuteness as there is here. The girls in MY 9th grade class were mostly prematurely aged hags with track marks up and down their limbs, lungs as black as the Devil's asshole, and leftover fat from aborted pregnancies. No wonder the mere thought of sex made me wince in disgust for so long. I will not deny a certain satisfaction in watching several of these girls perforate each other in a John Woo-style shootout (which, all kidding aside, is part of one of the film's best moments).
Needless to say, not all 42 students get an equal share of the spotlight. From the very beginning, it is quite obvious that the winner will be one of a fairly small pool of characters. Thus, although Battle Royale is shocking in the sense that it shows stuff that an American movie could never get away with, it has very few surprises. There are some rousing moments, however, especially when a trio of boys hiding out in a shed manages to send a great big "fuck you" to Kitano and the other adults, safe and snug (or so they think) in their base of operations.
Anyway...good movie. Didn't much like the way it ended, but I'm sure they could have come up with something worse. I recommend Battle Royale to all suburban yuppie mommies with political activist bumper stickers on their SUVs. I imagine a few of them would die of shock. There's another way to fight overpopulation. No special collars required!
NUMSKULL'S RATING: 7/10
LUCY IS RED'S REVIEW: The end of the millennium has come, Japanese society has collapsed. Fearing the youth, the Millennium Educational Reform Act is passed, also known as the "Battle Royale." Each year, a randomly chosen class of ninth graders is chosen to participate in the Battle Royale. Left on a deserted island with cool explosive collars around their necks, the students have three days to kill each other off, with the last one standing earning his or her freedom. "Okay class, today's lesson is - survival..."
Some students form alliances, hoping for a peaceful solution. Some commit suicide. Some desperately try to undermine and hack the system, hoping to win their freedom through terrorism. Some are in denial, and some lash out at everyone they see. And some of them are there for fun...
And so, for the next two hours you get to see a group of 40 desperate teenagers killing each other off in a frenzied attempt to win the game. When it finally comes down to the two main characters, who is going to survive?
A very well made film with a very sinister and malevolent sense of humor. The "Battle Royale" training video that the students are forced to watch is wickedly amusing. The film does an excellent job of capturing the very essence of teen angst, featuring overly melodramatic dialog and an peculiar musical score .
Very well directed, modern yet natural. It's also shockingly and graphically brutal. While I don't understand it, I found a sick fascination in watching teenagers kill each other. The girls in the film are arguably more violent than the boys, and have no qualms when it comes to pulling the trigger (whereas almost all of the boys are impotent with their weapons).
I found this quite satisfying, being a female myself, I enjoyed seeing guys get their asses kicked, and their heads toyed with! Things sort of fall apart towards the end, but the film never fails to be fascinating. While it's not for all tastes, "Battle Royale" is a truly awesome action/horror film as well as a intriguing character study and a biting commentary on society. Check it out!
LUCY IS RED'S RATING: 7/10