I’ve been keen to get my friend Neel involved in my Foreign Favourites film series, ever since he set up his Dohabitation blog. Like the guy himself, the blog is funny entertaining and very colourful, and tells of his adventures since moving to Doha. Definitely worth heading over. Without any further ado, here are his thoughts on disturbing thriller Battle Royale.
Quick Synopsis: (IMDB)
In the future, the Japanese government captures a class of ninth-grade students and forces them to kill each other under the revolutionary “Battle Royale” act (IMDB).
Years before the hunger games trilogy was even written, an undiluted, controversial dystopian vision free of Hollywood constraints was conceived in Japan. Battle Royale sent shockwaves through the world of cinema, a masterpiece of dark satire, hyperviolence and a commentary on the fear and anxiety in Japanese society. I have seen films with better performances, better special effects, better storylines and even films more violent, but as an overall experience very films have left such an imprint on me as Kinji Fukasaku’s turn of the century bloodbath. Quentin Tarantino has said this is one of his favourite movies and one review of the film suggested if he had written a school play it would probably have been this.
Set in the near future at the time (2002 to be exact), Japan is on the brink of economic collapse. Japanese youth are in rebellion and the government has responded with a severe crackdown via the Battle Royale Millennium Act. Every year a 9th grade class is selected for a last man standing style fight to the death (sound familiar?). A UKIP voter/Daily mail reader’s idea of a school trip for troublesome youth then takes shape as a drugged and sedated group of 40 students wake up on a remote island to be informed by their pissed off former teacher of the itinerary to come. They are made to watch an informative video guide to what they are about to witness and a few tips on how to survive (basically kill everyone else before they kill you).
The plot is fairly simple and provides far less of a backstory than the hunger games. Media coverage of the event and the thoughts of wider society is given surprisingly little scope in the film and many characters are killed off too quickly for us to really get to know them. The two standout characters, Shuya and Noriko have the obligatory lovestory but the film to its credit doesn’t dwell on this in the typical Hollywood tick the boxes cheesefest you usually see (how many films have you seen where the love story serves no real purpose and the film would be no worse without one?). The film is shot at a frenetic pace and rarely lets up.
Comical fight scenes are abundant with completely over the top performances and ludicrous final speeches capture the moments brilliantly. The actors look like they are having an absolute blast filming this and is what this makes this film so special. One magical moment was when the students were given weapons before being booted into the jungle to fend for themselves. One unfortunate chap was given a dustbin lid and the look on his face when he knew he’d have to face 39 others armed with machetes, knives et al was comedy gold. All the cliques you see in high school are represented and are played out in brilliant fashion with the popular kids, the nerds and the jocks all coming to a grisly end one way or the other.
This isn’t the most intelligent film you will ever see but in terms of direction and sheer thrills its hard to beat. There are other films that could provide you with a more detailed insight and understanding of Japanese culture but few that have the flair and sense of humour of this one. It also spawned several sequels which although enjoyable can’t match the original for being such a breath of fresh air and so unique at the time. If you abhor violence then this is clearly not the film for you. Some people would find the subject matter wildly offensive and controversial but then this film clearly wasn’t made for them. However if you are a fan of incredibly dark comedy, over the top horror films and want something to watch after a stressful day, I urge you to watch this!
Final Verdict: A –
Thank you Neel for such a fantastic review of such a great film. It’s a film I’ve long been fond of, and have already included it in my Back to School Blogathon, Desert Island Films and Anti-Establishment quiz. So many great points in your review. “If you abhor violence then this is clearly not the film for you” is my favourite. Makes you wonder what those people would make of Itchi the Killer mind…
“I have a rifle.” “I have a pistol.” “I have a pot.” Yep, happens.
A bit of trivia: the woman who does the introductory video for the kids when they arrive is Miyamura Yuko, the voice actress of Asuka in “Neon Genesis Evangelion.” It’s one of the few credits where you actually see her.
That is trivia haha. Trying to think what the best weapon was. The sonar thing was pretty great.
One of my favorite movies 🙂 Besides the actress that later played GoGo in Kill Bill, the girl in BR who was on the killing spree was supposed to be in KB too. The part got cut :-\
That would have been awesome. Can’t believe they cut it!
I’m borrowing you next time I’m on a film quiz!
Great movie and a great review! I also loved the book, it goes into a bit more depth for each of the students so you feel more attached to them.
I didn’t even realise there was a book!! Will have to check that out. Is there an English translation available?
Yes, that’s the version I read and it was great. Highly recommended 🙂
I am intrigued. (adds to already super long list)
I hear you! Same for me
Great review! This is one of my absolute favorite movies. It was fantastic. Unfortunately I haven’t read the book yet so I definitely to get to that!
You and me both!
Totally wasn’t expecting to hear that this is a dark comedy. I’m definitely interested now, I’ve always kind of steered away from this as I imagined it to be a deeply upsetting and depressing film. Haha
Oh it’s definitely intended as very dark comedy. It’s too ludicrous to be taken seriously and is done very tongue in cheek. It’s definitely worth a watch!
It is gloriously twisted. It really is hard not to laugh with some of the deaths.
I love this movie. It’s exactly what you say it is. My daughters are Hunger Games fans. I told them I’m going to show them this so they could see it done right. Might scar them for life, though.
lol. Hunger games is like a an attenborough wildlife documentary compared to this. I’d be intrigued to know what they think
Sure makes paintballing seem tame!
great review! gotta see this again!
Know what you mean. Have seen it twice but not seen it in years and could do with another watch.
Only saw it once (so far) 😉
I have no idea how you find so much time for films. I mightily approve though 🙂
Secret. … 😉
I saw “Battle Royale” some time ago, and I remember being really impressed by it. I’ll have to swing back and rewatch it sometime.
Just make sure you avoid the sequel. You would not believe the difference.
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Great post. Brilliant, brilliant film.
Neel did a great job and kept the high standard. I’m actually wondering whether to extend this to two films per person.
Ooh, let me know if you do, I’d love to do another : )
You know what. Yeah, you can. Can’t wait to see it. Just as long as it’s not one done before.
Cool. I’ve watched a few recently that I haven’t got round to writing up. Now, let me see, which one…
I have this image of you like this haha http://media1.giphy.com/media/X0CRW7EoBmGGc/giphy.gif
Perfect! That’s just right!