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March 8, 2012

Movie Review: Battle Royale (2000, Anchor Bay)

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku

Starring Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda and Taro Yamamoto

With the impending release of the much anticipated “Hunger Games” looming near, Anchor Bay Entertainment has thrown its hat into the ring with the strategic release on DVD of the Japanese cult classic from 2000, the movie that started it all, Battle Royale.

Set in the Japan of the future, the country is crumbling from within, under-age rebellion and crime is at an all time high. In a desperate attempt to curtail and discourage youth violence, the government passes into law the “Battle Royale” act. Once every year, a single 9th grade class of 40 students is chosen at random, taken against their will and transported to a remote island where they are fitted with monitoring collar's equipped with an explosive charge. Each student is given a survival bag equipped with a randomly selected weapon, which can beanything from a machine-gun, to an ax, to the lid of a cooking pot. The collars are pre-set to explode in 72 hours, with the only way of
stopping this being if there is a single collar transmitting a signal when time is up. In other words, if there is more then one person still alive at the end of the Battle Royale, then all survivors are
blown up. They soon realize they are the victims of a sick government conspiracy, and the only way to survive is to kill their fellow classmates.

The films main focus is on how the students cope with these dire circumstances. Small groups are soon banding together, some hiding in fear, some looking for a way off the island without resorting to violence, some looking to fight back against their captors by hacking into their computer systems in the hopes of deactivating their collars and then exacting revenge with a truck loaded with home-made explosives. And then there are those like the psychotic Kuriyama ( played by the ultra-sexy Chiaki Kuriyama, who most will recognize from her awesome performance as Gogo in Kill Bill:Vol 1), who has no problems at all with the dispatching of her classmates. As their numbers dwindle and the clock is running out,the final few are forced to either use their wits or succumb to the game and kill their closest friends.

From me, Battle Royale gets no points for subtlety (and thats a good thing), it is confrontational, in-your-face entertainment. It's wickedly indulgent in a Grand Theft Auto kind of way, where concern over life and limb are thrown out thewindow and the audience is given the luxury of just sitting back and enjoying the mindless carnage. And if you are able to get past theuncomfortable premise of children slaughtering children, hiddenbeneath this thick skin of murderous violence you can find a moral to the story, whether it be the moral flexibility of children or the folly of violence in general. I think this movie is important if for no other reason, for its time, it truly tested the limits of what is acceptable for a movie. And these are the exact kind of movies that grow into cult classics. Its intent is to shock and it hits the bulls-eye in what I thought was a fun and entertaining way. And although slightly goofy at times and severely over-acted at others, it was a 2 hour long blood-soaked train-wreck that I just couldn'tseem to look away from, and as a movie fan, that is a total win.

I highly recommend you watch this movie BEFORE plucking down the money to see what will most assuredly be the watered-down Americanized version.

7.5 out of 10

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