The Movie Buffer

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Dvd review: Battle Royale

Bloody and Barbaric, Battle Royale is a Slasher Nightmare


Up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A- Spoiled!


Overly violent and uninteresting sum up this gruesome picture, which seems to be based on "The Lord of the Flies" and the short story “The Lottery”, that tries very hard to be gritty and provocative but ends up tepid. Billed as an action packed, adventure movie, it quickly devolves into a mindless “shoot ‘em up” flick. With nary a coherent plot device during the length of the film, it chugs along as it’s cast of about 50 gets mowed down.

In the near future, in an effort to curb teen violence, a randomly selected class of grade nine students is forced, by the militaristic government, to brutally fight each other until only one remains. The kids are dropped off on a deserted island with food, water, one weapon and explosive necklace, to deter defectors. The kids quickly form up into groups and attempt survival by either eliminating the other teams, disassembling their necklaces and running or simply bunkering down in one of the many empty warehouses, huts and underground caves that are present on the island.

Now, you may be wondering why the government thought that this is a good idea and the film provides a brief explanation – “ ‘cause we said so”.

Given the previously stated point, why would the government have to ship these kids off to an island to fight? A school yard with broken bottles and knives seems just as apt. More and more questions like these ones crop up all over the film and there is little to no explanation of how an uninitiated viewer, like me, should answer them.

Like many films these days, this one is based on a series of books of the same name. The books garnered plenty of media attention when Japanese censors tried to get them banned from book stores for being too violent and racy. The books were never pulled and enjoyed more success from the attention than anyone could have imagined.

The director, Kinji Fukasaku, clumsily darts from fight to fight, unable to keep the story on track. The cast is made up of many well known Japanese television and film stars. The North American viewers will probably notice, Beat Takeshi (Vic Romano from Most Extreme Elimination Challenge; Zatoichi: the Blind Swordsman), as the embittered ex-school teacher-turned-military-man and Chiaki Kuriyama (Gogo from Kill Bill), as the one of the school girls. Takeshi is a great actor but he seems to be type cast as the angry villain lately. He was the one ray of sunlight in the otherwise blackened movie.

Even taken as a disposable horror flick, this film cannot be watched and unfortunately it isn’t one of those films that’s so bad that it has a sort of charm, it’s just utter garbage. The violence isn’t even that interesting because we’ve seen this sort of thing in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “The Running Man” and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “Hard Target”. I wish that Godzilla had popped up and finished off all the kids to end our misery. For Beat Takeshi fans, he’s on screen for about 16 minutes, he’s violent and unfortunately he can’t save this film. 1/10 or zero stars.

p.s. Surprisingly, this is one of the highest grossing films in Japan, having earned 3.11 billion yen domestically (source).


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