Battle Royale

Movie Review by Marc Neri

Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto
Director: Fukasaku Kinji

This movie is possibly not for everyone, this director is possibly not for everyone. I think that this is a shame, because this movie, although not entirely original, is not bad.

I was warned that this film was violent and unpleasant to watch. It was, in places. In other places it was beautiful and not at all lacking in humour (be it as dark as night). The director himself, Fukasaku Kinji, tells us in a statement that:
“Lots of people die in my films. They die terrible deaths. But I make [my films] this way because I don’t believe anyone would ever love or trust the films I make any other way”, so there!

I have not seen any of Fukasaku’s other films, I am not up on the Manga-Japanese culture and I did not grow up in wartime Japan, as did Fukasaku. This may be a reason why I found myself struggling to suspend my disbelief in the first few scenes of this movie. Why abduct one senior school class each year and stick them on an island, give them each a weapon and tell them to kill each other? (Punishment for not completing your assignment in time? Your head is blown off, of course). How will this “Battle Royale” rule help cure societies ills? Oh look, that girl has a knife in her skull. Perhaps it’s best to forget why the kids end up where they are and just “enjoy” the show.

Once I did suspend, I was left watching a kind of LORD OF THE FLIES on speed story, with a few automatic weapons thrown in. The usual characters are there; the hero who is not sure he should be killing his classmates, but can conveniently ditch his principles just in time to protect the heroine; there is the wise, been-here-done-it-all-before chap; there is the psycho; there is the psycho; there is the psycho (no misprint); there is the figure of authority (a tired, disillusioned and broken man, representing the society they all come from). I could go on, but you may like to have fun spotting them all, yourself.

In short:

Please do not go to this if you are an unpopular teenager at a high school in the US, and you have the keys to your grandfather’s gun cabinet. Please do not watch this film for it’s entertainment value. Please watch this film if you are a young adult about to set out on your way in the world: the film is chock full of easy to spot morals set against the background of an immoral world (with an oriental tinge which surpasses the usual American, soft edges, soft centre, Dawson of Popular Creek High approach). All stuff you will have probably discussed in class with your English teacher, in school or college, but may have slept through.

Good: I have probably made it sound sufficiently like school work to keep the wrong sort away.

4 out of 6 stars

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