Saturday, August 7, 2010

BATTLE ROYALE (2000) Movie Review


In the near future of Japan, the youth have become completely uncontrollable. In a desperate and extreme turn, the government creates the Battle Royale Act, in which a random high school class is chosen every year and the students of said class are put in an enclosed area and have three days to kill each other until only one remains. If they do not comply, a collar placed around their necks will explode at the end of the three days.

This year's class has just been chosen, and after a brief introduction and instruction by Kitano (Beat Takeshi), forty-two ninth graders are unleashed onto a small island each armed with one weapon and enough food to last three days. As the game begins, alliances are made and broken, friendships are tested, love and hate are pushed to the limit, and as the students begin to fall one by one, a glimmer of hope shines as a plan to stop the game comes to fruition.

Based on the novel of the same name by Koushun Takami, Kinju Fukasaku's controversial film was released on an unsuspecting public and instantly became a cult favorite which in its short life has already garnered fan websites, an impressive comic book adaptation, and hordes of cosplay fan who dress up like the characters. Much of the controversy surrounding the film dealt with the fact that actual teen actors (including a then relatively unknown Chiaki Kuriyama, who would go on to KILL BILL fame as GoGo) were used for the teen roles. The Japanese government went so far to try and ban the film, as they had with the book, but were again unsuccessful.

Here, "Beat" Takeshi Kitano is the only face that is really recognizable, and as a veteran actor in Japanese cinema, easily carries every scene he is in, as the truly sinister and diabolical Master Of Ceremonies. He plays the role perfectly with almost no emotion or facial expression, which is easy given his face is half-paralyzed due to a motorcycle accident in the mid-90's, and reminds the students to wash in the morning with the same vocal rhythm he does reading off the list of dead students that died the previous day. He is truly a despicable character, though he slowly transforms into a sympathetic if not pathetic character as the film roles on. Takeshi is clearly having a ball here, and demonstrates once again why he has the following he has.

Director Kinji Fukasaku, in addition, brings an almost over-the-top energy to the film, and masterfully combines the drama, tragedy, black comedy and shocking violence that was woven throughout the novel into a simmering pot of cinematic goodness. Much of the political undertones of the book are lost in the translation though, and although it is not hollow, the film does take on a more at-face-value and exploitive mode than the source material. What does remain, is some very intense testing of the human psyche within the characters, and the exploration of the subconscious and animalistic desire to survive no matter the cost within all of us.

Watching the film, you can not help but to find at least one character than can identify with and route for, whether it be the heroic Shuya, who truly believes he can unite the students to beat the system, the backstabbing seductress Takako (Chiaki Kuriyama) or soulless and silent, machine-gun toting student who ruthlessly mows down anyone in his path. Most likely, you'll be wondering what you would do in this LORD OF THE FLIES inspired situation, or at the very least think of a few high school chums you wouldn't of mind killing.

At the time of this writing, there is no word, or even a whisper, of an official domestic release. Fear not though, for the Korean DVD import is Region 0 (that means we can watch it in the US) and is readily available to purchase in the states on Amazon and even available for rent on Netflix.


Mia | said...

Love the plot, it kinda sends chills up my spine to imagine myself as one of the students bound to kill all the rest or die. I will see if I can get the dvd locally. Thanks for the review.

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