Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Based on: Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Starring:Tatsuya Fujiwara, Takeshi Kitano, Aki Maeda, , Chiaki Juriyama. Japan. 1h 54m
Battle Royale is Japan’s ultimate dystopian thriller, which follows a group of junior high schoolers who are forced to fight to the death by the Japanese government. due to the ultra violent nature of the film and the age of most of the cast it was met with widespread repulsion and band in excluded from distribution in several countries.
Veteran director fukasaku, at the tender age of 70, managed to put everything we had into this film. and while it’s often not easy to watch, stark, angsty and the incredibly unnerving it still remains an influential genre masterpiece, that takes place in a difficult near future, that we pray is an alternative universe to the one that we’re all comfortable with.
Some of what we have led ourselves to believe will happen in the future, does occur in this story, the economy has collapsed unemployment has spread and juvenile crime is rife. But the Japanese government decided to fight back would a whole new educational scheme, with the hopes and aims bringing a youth under control, a new law is passed, each year the 9th grade is to be sent to a remote island, issued tamper proof exploding collars, with the addition of random weapons and meager supplies, and they are then forced to kill each other until there’s only one survivor left.
The biggest difference with this particular group of teenagers is that they are accompanied by two survivors from previous games, at the beginning of the film it doesn’t seem to be such a huge thing but by the end you do wonder why the hell they were never go back, is new a Battle Royale addictive?
Initially they are led to believe that they are attending a school trip, but they are gassed while on the coach and awake in a makeshift classroom on the island, their tutor Kitano Sensei ( Beat Takeshi) plays a video of a hyperactive young Japanese girl who explains the gory details of their current predicament, Not quite believing what’s going on the rowdy teenagers start to scream and cry, when their teacher plugs a couple of them to prove the point. soon they are giving further instructions, a bag including the weapon and some basic supplies and I eat taste out of the building and onto the island. where they are deemed to slaughter each other until there is only one person left.
This is where the main characters are divided up, everybody groups up together in a normal cliquey groups, the nerd, super cute preppy girls and a couple of tough hombres all divide up around the island. It seems as if momentarily they forgotten exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, as they tried to help each other out to survive this ordeal, maybe hoping that help will come?
Pretty soon the teen gore killings begins, as the teen melodrama turns feral, for majority of the film is littered with brutal slayings shootings, stabbings, poisoning and cruel beatings as the stakes are raised higher and higher, double dealing and treachery become hand-in-hand, as a majority of the class realises this is there anyway out, don’t forget about the nerdy kids who have profound a large quantity of computer materials??
It’s hard to believe that this was made by 70 year old man as it’s bursting with teenage and energy, dark sordid humor as incredibly quick and slick. and could easily be translated into a cutting-edge manga with its ferocity.
There is a degree of overreacting to certain situations and deaths, momentarily of the characters seem to revert back to normal life, seemingly acting as if in some kind of daydream where everything is just normal again, then freaking out and killing each other, In one particular scene, Takako (Kuriyama) has this daydream that she’s getting ready for a jog, and it’s happily running around the forest, until she realises there someone behind her and then goes in to kill mode, I think, quite similar to her role in Kill Bill (2003, Each death scene as pretty epic, and at times they come in groups, there isn’t an overuse of squibs and masses of blood like in films such as Ichi the killer (2001) but some of the acting is over done but it’s just the general Japanese cinematic style. One of my favourite stand-up singing this with the preppy girls who have set up in a lighthouse and cooking and cleaning for each other, somebody breaks in accusing somebody else of some altercation and it’s set all of the girls off there’s poison being put into food people choking guns going off everyone’s screaming crying declaring their love for each other and sudden death and the scene ends in ultimate bloodbath!!
Providing you have a taste for the dark angry nature of cinema it really is a spectacular ride, there have been many similar style movies and books since this and all get referred back to this greatest achievement in the Battle Royale genre, but none take it this far into areas that we find so uncomfortable.
Rating 8 /10
R: Yakuza Graveyard (1976), Street Mobster (1972), Battle Royale II : Requiem (2003), Samurai Reincarnation (1981)
L: Japanese Cinema A-Z,
5s: Beat Takeshi