Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Cast: Beat Takeshi, Chiaki Kuriyama, Tatsuya Fujiwara
Original Release Date: 2000
Scores: Technical: 85, Story: 90, Acting: 80, Overall Score: 85
Battle Royale is the story of a dystopic future in which Japan is a North Korea-like totalitarian state in which each year to curb youth protest and resistance and to provide Roman gladiator-like entertainment, a randomly selected 9th grade class is kidnapped and sent to a deserted island where they are equipped with randomly allotted weapons and forced to kill each other until there is one survive left.
The film is actually banned as an American release, simply because it had the unfortunate luck of being released after Columbine, I assure you however it’s no more graphic than the many violent films Hollywood hypocritically allows.
Battle Royale is of the class of hyper-violent films that are now common in Japanese cinema…And all in all, it is a pretty good film…At first I was disappointed with a few of the changes and actors chosen for the characters I’d grown to love from the novel…Kiriyama seemed rather unconvincing in appearance, and so did Shogo and a few other vital characters…But I suppose as it advanced, I grew to appreciate each actor, and the acting wasn’t that bad. The shining performance is the role of the head teacher, played by legendary Japanese actor and director, Beat Takeshi. He played splendidly as the insane head teacher, and rescued this movie from total boredom at times, adding a healthy sense of inanity.
Overall, I enjoyed this film, although it hardly has the depth that Battle Royale was originally intended to deliver. It was supposed to be a modern, Orwellian Lord of the Flies type shindig, showing how different people from different social background and such would react in a similar extreme situation. Some refuse to fight, some take part in the killing with glee, and there are many other mixed reactions. It also raised questions on loyalty and friendship. How well can one trust their “best friends” and fellow students in an enforced kill-or-be-killed situation? Sadly, you don’t get to see as much of these themes in the movie, since it is a feature length movie and they can’t fit everything in, instead making all those characters you know so much about in the novel mostly become extras and only highlighting a chosen few. I recommend reading the novel and the manga, and then the film.
Battle Royale’s a great thing to get into, but like I said, love the novel first, then be entertained by the mindless action and inanity of the film. Incidentally, after Kinji Fukasaku, the director, deceased, his son, writer Kenta Fukasaku made a sequel to Battle Royale so horrible that I only own it for humor purposes…
A bit violent, yet interesting. Unfortunately, one can’t really rent it, though one can probably find the DVD for purchase in a local comic book shop or film store. Like I said, buy the novel by Koushun Takami and you will learn to love this story.
-Review by Sanbud Tehrani