Long time and old school Yakuza film director KINJI FUKASAKU's modern masterpiece of a movie comes flying in from no where and hits you right in the kisser with a clinched fist! It slaps you across the face and begs you to FUCK with it! His violent celluloid vision of a futuristic Japan (based on the outstanding KOUSHUN TAKAMI novel) in which high school children are randomly kidnapped, whisked away to an isolated island, given a variety of deadly weapons, and forced to kill each other off in various, wonderfully creative, blood-splattered, gore-filled ways is just simply, without a doubt, a pleasure to watch. Think of BATTLE ROYALE as the LORD OF THE FLIES "survival of the fittest" classic meets the equally classic "hunt'em down" flick THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. So with that said, I believe very little additional info is actually needed but I'll give ya some more in case that wasn't enough to wet your whistle.
BATTLE ROYALE's immediately excessive "Go Right For The Jugular" attitude is certainly welcomed and very appreciated in a movie which could ONLY be made in the overseas Asian market for the simple fact of it's basic story and content. And what's that? Well, it's about a classroom of high school kids who have been impartially selected for the BR (Battle Royale) ACT. Why? As it turns out, adults in Japan feel that they have lost control of their youth and through this forced contest, their hopes for a respectable future will be restored by the SINGLE surviving participant of this insane "game". Yup, that's right, you read that correctly, THE SINGLE PARTICIPANT! Out of 42 classmates, who have known each other for years, only ONE can walk away as the winner at the end or else EVERYONE dies from the exploding collars that the students are forced to wear around their necks throughout the duration of the "game". This one concept begs for this hallowing question to be answered, "Could you kill your best friend in order to save yourself?". And it's something that MUST be decided individually by all those playing in this "life or death" scenario. So if you can think about it and place yourself in their shoes during the movie, the food for thought (and the potential for great storytelling) is there to be had all day long!
But not only that, even though I personally despise the "message movie" and hold such films in complete contempt, I do believe the BATTLE ROYALE movie (and most certainly the original novel itself) contains a variety of so-called "hidden" meanings, analogies, and metaphors that can be interpreted differently, and on multiple and various levels depending on each viewer's own morals, expositions, and understandings of their society and the world around them. Yet at it's heart, and probably something Western folk will likely never understand, BATTLE ROYALE must try to delve into the problems of the modern Japanese culture. Some examples of these issues could include the generation lifestyle gap between the old and the young of Japan. Or the strict upbringing where it's hammered into the youth that they must strive to better theirselves in all areas of life as if it were a contest. Or even their worries concerning world governmental policies. Or the ever simplistic and obvious concerns of true friendship and faithful loyalty.
So, I must go on the record and say that this film is quite possibly the COOLEST product to ever hit my DVD player! And that's certainly saying alot because there's been quite a few really great Oriental films that have passed through it. And my oh my, I can only imagine the joys of seeing this movie on the big screen. But believe you me and mark my words, BATTLE ROYALE, once it gets a greater world exposure other than the semi-cult status it already clearly holds, will probably spawn a plethora of wanna-be's and cheap imitations and cause a quite a ruckus when some stupid kid decides to go into his school and kill one of his classmates and say that he did it because he saw it in this movie. I can only imagine that the media will most certainly have a field day with it then, and, of course, this will definitely drive up the demand for EVERYBODY to see it and the whole mess will probably start all over again, and again, and again.
Yet even though BATTLE ROYALE is my favorite movie and by no means am I slamming the late KINJI FUKASAKU, I just have to say that after going through the original Japanese Manga adaptation of the novel as well as reading the actual novel itself, I was struck by a revelation of sorts. I feel (and this is simply my own opinion), that if a younger, more provocative filmmaker would have been at the helm of the BATTLE ROYALE film, I think the movie would have been an overall better product. What I mean to say is that we would have been shown so much more of the glorious ultra-violence and sexual deviance that the original publications contained. I also believe that this would have had a larger and more profound emotional impact on the audience and the entire "feel" of the film would have changed (I think) for the better.
Now don't get me wrong, the movie doesn't have to be all "blood and guts", mind you. You simply keep the story itself intact and deliver the same messages it trys to hand out but make sure you SHOW us all these terrible things that these poor students must face in their harrowing ordeal on that island. Please shove it in our faces and right down our throats, if you would! Make us love, hate, and reel from the possible situations that the entire presentation can offer. And this is what COULD have happened (again, in my opinion) if a younger director would have headed the project. But let me remind you, I'm certainly not bashing the movie, or any of the great young actors, nor the remarkable director himself and I still LOVE the film like nobody's business but none-the-less, I have to admit that after I read the novel, coupled with following the artwork of the Manga, I finally got the opportunity to experience my favorite BATTLE ROYALE in a whole new way, as the outrageous and over the top crimson-covered, shock-o-rama that it was intended to be. Or at least, I hope it was.
But I do confess... I absolutely loved the BATTLE ROYALE movie! I really did! I swear, if a DVD could wear out from multiple viewings, then my import DVD must be on the brink of utter destruction. This was a REAL TREASURE that found it's way to me at the most perfect time and reconfirmed my heart-aching affection for those movies that try to go "too far". Another of it's charms for me was it's somewhat "Reality Show" atmosphere since I'm a big fan of the popular SURVIVOR television series. But hey, how can I forget the movie's increadible cast! C'mon, what words can be used to describe actor ANDO MASANOBU's super character role as the crazed emotionless killer, Kiriyama?! Not to mention, what about drop dead gorgeous actress KOU SHIBASAKI as she rampaged onscreen as the pure sadistic, evil psychotic goddess, Mitsuko?! WOW! I say, just WOW! But I will admit that I was also saddened and it nearly brought tears to my eyes to see all those pretty Japanese girls get murdered as they did when I could most certainly think of a better, more pleasurable way to occupy their time on that island.
Anyway, in closing, and for what it's worth, I do believe that this was the very film that finally pushed me to seek out all those other obscure Asian movies that I'd been hearing so much about over the years, and I'd be willing to say that it also inspired me to start writing my own reviews in the hopes of promoting the often under-appreciated Oriental Cinema as well. And DAMN, let me tell ya, what a truely wild ride it's been so far! So I must say... "ARRIGATO, KINJI-SAN!"