Battle Royale review
Must-watch Japanese films: Battle Royale is the ultimate dystopian nightmare: A bunch of riotous schookids put on an island and encouraged to kill each other in the name of a Government experiment. Good grisly fun with a social message.
Picture it: Modern day Japan. A group of 10th grade students selected for their wayward non-conformist tendencies are forced to take part in the Government’s yearly sadistic reform act to keep ‘hooligans’ in check. The name of this reform act? ‘Battle Royale’. Its purpose? To get problematic youth to kill each other in a place where no-one else has to worry about them.
Gassed, kidnapped and driven to a mysterious island where they’re fitted with ticking time bomb collars, the class of Shiroiwa Junior High are pitted against each other, one by one, before the last girl (or boy) standing can be crowned the winner and is set free.
Assigned with various weapons (the most unfortunate ‘weapons’ being a fan and pot lid) the teenagers are set loose on the security controlled island. Their only chance of survival is to give in to the Government’s plans and murder their former friends and classmates. If they refuse to comply, the electronic collars strapped round their necks will blow up in the three day time gap either way.
It’s kill or be killed at its very best.
Mitsuko Souma (Kou Shibasaki) and Kazuo Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando) provide the psychotic glares and willingness to partake in bumping off their fellow friends in superbly gory battles. The classes’ former teacher, Kitano (‘Beat’ Takeishi Kitano – we love you) is the contrastingly upbeat host of the game who sits in comfort in his office, watching the events unfold. He gladly flings a knife at the head of one of the students for whispering in an earlier scene – it’s not hard to tell which side of the socio-political fence he’s on.
At the heart of Battle Royale there are genuinely good characters. Protagonist Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) exposes his courageous side when he decides he will not take part in the brutal killings, and steps up to the plate to convince the other kids that there is another way out. Loner Shogo Kawada (Taro Yamamoto), having been drafted on the island before (where his girlfriend, Keiko Onuki, suffered the fate of the rest of his former class) is out to avenge her death. Shy, strong willed Noriko Nakagwa (Aki Maeda) is the voice of reason in the unlikely trio.
Adapted from the successful book of the same name, and later manifested in Manga form, Battle Royale is the perfect slasher flick – a bloodbath of wonderfully staged romp-filled stabbings, shootings and sword wielding fights. And, if you really squint and turn your head sideways, it has a wholesome social message too!
Quentin Tarantino loved it and so should you.