REVIEW: Battle Royale (2000)

battleroyale

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2000, Toei Company/Fukusaku-Gumi/GAGA Communications/Nippon Shuppan Hanbei/Kobi Co./WOWOW/AM Associates/MF Pictures

Director:
Kinji Fukusaku
Producers:
Kinji Fukusaku
Kenta Fukusaku
Chie Kobayashi
Toshio Nabeshima
Masumi Okada
Kimio Kataoka
Writers:
Takami Koushun (novel)
Kenta Fukusaku (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Katsumi Yanagijima
Editing:
Hirohide Abe

Cast:
Tatsuya Fujiwara (Shuya Nanahara)
Aki Maeda (Noriko Nakagawa)
Taro Yamamoto (Shogo Kawada)
Takeshi Kitano (Kitano-Sensei)
Chiaki Kuriyama (Takako Chigusa)
Sosuke Takaoka (Hiroki Sugimura)
Takashi Tsukamoto (Shinji Mimura)
Eri Ishikawa (Yukie Utsumi)
Yukihiro Kotani (Yoshitoki Kuninobu)
Ko Shibasaki (Mitsuko Soma)
Masanobu Ando (Kazuo Kiriyama)

Takami Koushun’s controversial novel is brought to life courtesy of the legendary Kinji Fukusaku, which also caused controversy with its core plot.

Local schools have been in chaos with students randomly attacking teachers. As a result, the government imposes a new law called the New Millennium Education Reform Act, also known as the Battle Royale act. The act has a class chosen by lottery and that class are to head to an uninhabited island where the students have only three days to kill each other until there is only one survivor left. If there are more than one survivor after the three days, everyone dies.

This year, it’s Class 3-B, a class of high school freshmen, who are chosen to engage in the battle royale. They are shocked to learn that their former professor, Kitano, is in charge to ensure the plan goes without a hitch. To add fuel to this fire, two new students, Kawada and Kiriyama, have transferred to Class 3-B. As the game begins, the class must go to great lengths to ensure survival and for some, they will go against their own friends to make sure they are the only survivors. However, some attempt to find hope and intend to find a way that there will be more than the one required survivor. What will happen after these three horrific days?

When Takami Koushun released his dystopian novel in 1999, which revolves around a government law that caused students to become their own victims by killing each other on an abandoned island, the Japanese Parliament were upset and had attempted to ban the book but when Koushun argued that the government in the book doesn’t necessarily mean Japan, the author won. One of the great Japanese auteurs, Kinji Fukusaku, took the chance and directed this film adaptation, which delves a bit away from its source material, but still holds as one of the great Japanese action-horror films today.

The film has an ensemble cast with another legend, Takeshi Kitano, as the teacher who becomes the commander of this year’s BR act and ensures that these kids follow through with what the government wants. Tatsuya Fujiwara and Aki Maeda do quite well as the two concerned students who want to just survive and will do what they can to make sure they do so together. Taro Yamamoto’s Kawada is a very mysterious figure who may not be as heartless as he seems while Masanobu Ando’s Kiriyama is a raging lunatic who goes to great lengths and extremes to ensure his survival.

One Missed Call’s Ko Shibasaki gives an impressive performance as the popular girl of the class, who just when you think she becomes the hunted becomes a vicious hunter herself as she unleashes a repressed fire within herself in her first action scene of the film. The future “Go Go Yubari” of Kill Bill Vol. 1 herself, Chiaki Kuriyama, makes the guys cringe when she confronts a classmate who had a pining crush on her but rejects him and when he attacks her, she resorts to territory reminiscent of some great classic cult revenge films.

The level of violence in the film is what you would expect from a gritty action thriller in the vein of grindhouse to a level of horror film. There are loads of blood and gore in the film, especially when it comes to certain characters going to the extreme to a massive shootout that results from a miscommunication and assumption between classmates in an abandoned house on the island. Even when you think one specific character has died, he comes back to wreak more havoc looking worse than they do when you first see them and the finale brings a bit of a shock value.

Battle Royale is a film that truly tackles a controversial topic or two, but look at recent youth adult novels and film adaptations such as The Hunger Games and The Divergent Series and see its influence from perhaps this very film and its source novel, which caused governmental uproar in its native Japan, but the controversy only made this more popular than expected.

WFG RATING: A

DVD/BLU-RAY

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