Battle Royale (Japan 2000)

Rating: ****
Review Date: 8/12/01
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Cast: "Beat" Takeshi Kitano

What an amazing film! At the end of the millenium, Japanese society has collapsed. Fearing the youth, the Millenium 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 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 break 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 dark and nasty 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 a completely over-the-top musical score . It's also shockingly and graphically brutal, causing me to jump out of my seat on several occasions. While I don't understand it, I found a sick fascination in watching attractive teenagers kill each other. (time for therapy, perhaps?) It's also quite satisfying if you like girls 'n' guns action, since 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). Things sort of fall apart towards the end, but the film never fails to be interesting. While it's not for all tastes, "Battle Royale" is a truly awe-inspiring action/horror film as well as a fascinating character study and a biting commentary on society. Check it out.