Battle Royale (2000)
0 comment Wednesday, April 30, 2014 |
Runtime: 122 minutes
Country: Japan
Cast and Crew
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by Kinji Fukasaku, Based on the novel by Koushun Takami
Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano
Battle Royale is a film that does not compromise with the Western world's idea of a mainstreamed Hollywood movie. It reflects the themes found in William Goldman's controversial book Lord of the Flies, that of innocent children being forced to exercise their base instincts in order to survive a vicious bloodbath. BR makes frequent use of the sticky red stuff, but underneath the gore the overall message remains clear and powerful.
The new millennium has brought only pain and loss for Japan. There are millions of citizens who are unemployed and starving and, worst of all, the students have violently revolted against the school teachers in a mayhem of anarchy. To quell the rising chaos, the government passes the Battle Royale Act. This entails a single high school class chosen by lottery to spend a three day period on a deserted island. Within that time they must slaughter each other until there is only one left standing. The students find themselves changing and going to desperate measures to ensure that they make it to the final deadline...
The subject matter is disturbing to say the least. A pall of somberness hangs over the entire film, the realization that most of these children will be killed unsettling the viewer. This begins right from the start when a supporting character has the explosive shackle around his throat set off. He desperately seeks the help of his fellow students but they only push him away out of the fear of death. This moment sets the bar for the rest of the picture. No one is safe. Anything can happen.
The film also has a number of character complexities within it. Our heroes, as righteous as they may be, still have to fight back and break the morals they previously held. The villains in the film, from the cold-hearted Mitsuko to the harsh teacher, actually suffer from troubles themselves that cause them to act in the way they do. Mitsuko was forced to kill a pervert her prostitute mother had brought home and the teacher faces a conflicted home life where his daughter despises him. With the exception of one character, no one person is entirely good or evil. This type of in-depth character development leaves the viewer puzzled as to who they should align their sympathies with. In short, the film is realistic.
Gorehounds looking for nothing but a bloody good time won't be disappointed either. Plasma assaults the screen in a variety of ways, from sprays to spurts to waves. The aforementioned explosive shackles have a particularly nasty effect, the detonation rupturing the victim's throat and giving gurgling blood the effect of a water sprinkler. The kills performed by the students are generally left only hinted at, a mutilated corpse only briefly seen or a hanging body barely discernible in dark shadows. This is a wise choice on director Fukasaku's part; he lets our imaginations fill in the blanks concerning the atrocities these innocent children are committing. There is one wince-inducing moment where a harassed girl chases down her male caller and stabs him repeatedly with a knife, finally using the blade to cut into his genitalia. I even caught myself squirming all over the place as the boy screamed in agony. Powerfully gruesome stuff.
Battle Royale is not for the faint of heart. It has both visceral shocks and tough moral questions that don't have any real answers. Action, drama, and horror blend together to create a harsh and cruel atmosphere that won't leave your mind for sometime. Highly recommended for people looking for something a little bit different.

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