Forty two students sent to an island, each given a different assortment of weapons. their mission: kill each other until only one’s left standing. Sound familiar? Based on a novel by Kōshun Takami, guest reviewer Chris Elena takes on this cult classic.
Set in the not too distant future, kids have become out of control. In the first few minutes of Battle Royale, we see a student attack one of his teachers with a knife, without any word or warning. Times have clearly changed and something must be done…and it has. A legislation is passed, the “Milennium Educational Reform Act” or as its better known as “The BR act”. This involves the government capturing a school class of mostly of 15 and 16 year olds, placing them all on a remote island where they’re foced to fight to the death and only one survivour can remain. What does this prove? Good question.
Other than government officials, the curator of this particular match is the school teacher we saw being attacked at the very beginning of the film, and the chosen class’ former eigth grade teacher, Kitano-sensei (Takeshi Kitano). Revenge? Perhaps. This particular class consists of forty two students, each of whom get a bag containing a small ration of food and water and of course, a weapon. Each student gets a different weapon, some being on the more creative end of things. They’re given three days, and at the end of that time if there isn’t a sole survivor, then they’ll all be killed. How many will be willing to kill their best friends in order to make it to the end?
Battle Royale was made in 2000 but released in Australia in 2003 and has yet to see a proper release in the U.S. Possibly in the wake of The Hunger Games release – which coincidentally has an incredibly similar plot, yet one tenth of the carnage – the Director’s Cut Blu-ray and DVD has been released, with a little more than 10 minutes of extra footage added to the film. It doesn’t exactly improve the film, but there is a noticeable difference, a worthy one also.
Ever since it’s first release back in the early 2000s, the film has grown to an enormous cult status and for good reason. Battle Royale doesn’t pull a single punch. It’s brutal, relentless and incredibly entertaining and original. The horror and excitement you’ll feel during almost every scene on the island is beyond words. In terms of story, it’s well told and the switch from the first half an hour being story and plot based to the last hour and a half being almost purely character driven is well constructed.
The novelty of Battle Royale lies in the premise and the bloody violence, and in that area it really doesn’t disappoint. At times it is cool, while other moments are savage. A large number of these kids are friends, and you see the friendship tested and the ugliest bits of human nature surface when their days become even more numbered.
As successful as the film is with its story and characters, there are faults. The characters could’ve had a little more depth, considering we spend such a large amount of time with them, yet their bond of friendship is always noticeable. The ending is disappointing and somewhat of a cop-out considering how many rules the film breaks and how ruthless it is. The character back-story of our intended protagonist is a little tacky, and emotionally manipulative, but works better as the film progresses.
The real strength, oddly enough, is the violence. If it all looked cool and inventive throughout, the message would’ve been lost completely and the film itself would’ve been even more sadistic. Instead, you gasp and worry rather than cheer and admire. Very few films have yet to perfect this. Battle Royale, for the most part, does.
The Director’s Cut edition contains as mentioned an extra 10 minutes of footage added to the original cut of the film. The picture quality is solid, although nothing too groundbreaking and a slew of great special features including a Director’s statement, a Battle Royale documentary and making of, revealing the shooting locations and how it was filmed all over Japan as well as the political undertones being highlighted all the more in the documentary, along with much much more making this an instant puchase.
Battle Royale doesn’t pull a single punch. It’s brutal, relentless and incredibly entertaining and original. The horror and excitement you’ll feel during almost every scene on the island is beyond words.