Battle Royale II (Japan 2003)

Rating: **
Review Date: 2/7/04
Director: Kinji Fukasaku, Kenta Fukasaku
Cast: Ai Maeda, Riki Takeuchi, cameos by Natsuki Kato, Sonny Chiba, "Beat" Takeshi Kitano

A severely disappointing and completely incomprehensible sequel to the outstanding "Battle Royale" (2000). To make matters worse, master director Kinji Fukasaku died while making the film, leaving the monumental task of completing it to his son, Kenta. The final product seems disjointed at best. Three years after Shuya and Noriko escaped from the Battle Royale, Shuya forms a terrorist group called Wild Seven and declares war against all adults. Japan responds to their terrorist acts by introducing a new game called BR2, the point of which is to gather a bunch of high school kids, arm them with guns, and send them off to kill Shuya and his followers. The complete absurdity of the situation defies all logic and reason, and the final showdown with the completely insane Riki Takeuchi represents one of the most ridiculous pieces of cinema I've ever seen. And just when you think it can't get any weirder, the ending of the film will cause a complete brain meltdown. Just what kind of drugs were the writers taking when they wrote this script?

Technically, the film is well made and for the most part looks really nice. Unfortunately, the combat sequences utilize an annoying handheld technique coupled with a fast shutter speed, which creates a jerky and nauseating strobing effect. The film also contains a surprisingly harsh anti-American sentiment, which really caught me offguard. Possibly the most impressive aspect of the film are the squibs, which are nice and juicy, and spray all over the place to great visceral effect. This is mostly due to the fact that digital technology was used for many of the bullet hits, which offers some interesting advantages and disadvantages. The biggest disadvantage is that digital blood has nothing to react with and nowhere to go, other than just disappearing into thin air. The film contains lots of nods and winks to the original, and the music score is nearly identical. It's sad to see that Shuya has gone completely mad, and Riki Takeuchi goes WAY over the top with his performance. Dude is messed up in this film... For me, the highlight of the film was seeing Ai Maeda (perfectly reprising her role from "Gamera 3" (1999) ) and Natsuki Kato ("Eko Eko Azarak" (2001), "Stacy" (2001) ) heavily armed and shooting people with machine guns. Very nice. Apart from being unintelligible and downright strange, the biggest crime this film commits is that there is no emotional investment in the characters. It's essentially an overly violent and melodramatic free-for-all without any heart or sense, so the audience never gets to know the characters or even care about what happens to them. Ultimately, this makes watching the film an empty experience.