Starring Beat Takeshi, Tatsuya Fujiwara and Taro Yamamoto
In a future Japan, the country has become overcrowded so the government passes the “Battle Royale” law, which takes classes of children from middle schools (junior highs) and puts them on a small island to fight to the death. Only one student can live so it’s everyone for themselves. Now THAT’S a reality show!
Set in a not too distant future Japan, there has been an explosion in the population and now the country is overcrowded with young teens who far outnumber the older population. The government, worried about the sudden demographic shift in young punks not attending school, creates the “Battle Royale Act” as a means to cut down the young population by selecting certain classrooms of students and sends them to an isolated island. On that island, over the course of three days, the students are forced to fight each other, mostly their friends, to the death until there’s a “winner.”
One year, Class 3B is taking a field trip when they are ambushed and gassed unconscious. They wake up in an army bunker with collars around their necks. Kitano, an old teacher of theirs, shows up to introduce the rules of the Battle Royale (see above) and explains why they are there. He kills one of the students by throwing a knife into her forehead, proving to everyone that this is truly real. It is explained that the collars contain a small amount of explosive, and again to prove that they are real, Kitano detonates the collar of the class clown and best friend of our hero, Nanahara.
Once the rules are explained, each student is given a backpack with 3 days worth of water and rations as well as a unique weapon. The lucky students get guns, knives, bow and arrows while the unlucky ones get the joke weapons like pots and pans. The students begin working together in their old cliques (the nerds, the popular girls, etc.) or run solo, like the cold-hearted bitch, Chigusa (played by Chiyaki Kuriyama who you may recognize as Gogo Yabari in Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill.”) However it doesn’t take long for the cliques to fall apart as paranoia from lack of trust takes over and the numbers dwindle fast over three days and Nanahara does what he can to protect is love, Noriko.
Battle Royale is most definitely a disturbing flick just for the fact that you’re watching school kids around 14-16 years old thrown into something they want no part of and murdering each other for the sake of staying alive. Certainly there was a lot of controversy over the film’s subject matter, it’s kind of like a modern retelling of “Lord of the Flies,” with an urban setting that adds maybe a bit too much realism given the unfortunate amount of students who have gone on rampages over the years. The film is most definitely not for everyone so if you think you’re sensitive about what I just written, don’t watch it.
A film with well over thirty different characters to follow would sound like a cluster fuck, but surprisingly BR doesn’t get too confusing. Yes there are a few throwaway characters but most of the cast are given enough background and reasons to live that you feel for them when they’re killed off in many gruesome ways, and with such a large cast that happens a lot. Gunshots, stabbings, electrocution, decapitation, etc. The film’s violence comes off a little over-the-top that it’s almost cartoonish to see amongst the bleak and depressing nature of the game. The acting can almost be described as “real” since some of these kids really are acting their age (the older kids acting younger really stand out though.)
Maybe I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, having read mostly headlines stating how great the movie was, but it definitely threw me off. Sure it’s depressing but I can’t say I didn’t find it gripping to watch even given the subject matter. Recommended but you’ve been warned.
Story: 9 – Teenage students sent to an island to play “Highlander” for real. Comparable to Lord of the Flies or The Hunger Games (which got compared a lot to BR.)
Blood: 9 – Very bloody stuff and with such a large cast there’s quite a variety as well.
Nudity: 0 – Thankfully there is nothing.
Overall: 9 – The first time I saw the movie it blew me away, the second viewing years later carries much the same reaction.
-The film was banned in many countries and for many years Japanese distributor Toei refused to release it in North America. It didn’t get an official NA release until Anchor Bay released one in 2012.
-An American remake of Battle Royale has gone through several stages of development since 2006 but none have come to fruition.
-None of the actors had stunt doubles.