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Battle Royale: Director's Cut (Collector's

A movie directed by Kinji Fukasaku

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What's More Troubling...The Violence OR Who Is Performing the Violence?!

  • Sep 7, 2009

Kinji Fukasaki’s “BATTLE ROYALE” (Batoru Rowaiaru, 2000) is the type of film whose reputation precedes it. The film sparked such controversy and almost became banned from its native Japan. Its hype was far-reaching that when the movie reached America, it was even proclaimed the ‘movie of the decade’. I’m not sure whether I can agree with that claim but one thing’s for sure; Japanese filmmakers had the guts to pull off a movie that depicts violence and murder done by teenagers. It is easy to dismiss “Battle Royale” as an action-packed, exploitive thriller but the movie is just so much more.

In a not-so different alternate future, Japan has experienced economic collapse with a massive unemployment rate. With no clear future, students begin to disrespect the education system, with an increase in riots and violence, student drop outs are also occurring at an alarming rate. To control the situation, the government enacts the “Battle Royale Act” that consists of the selection by secret lottery for one of the poorest performing class in the country and sending the students off to an island where they must fight each other to the death until only one is left standing. The students have 72 hours to complete the game or everyone dies from the explosive devices on their necks. They are supplied with random weapons, given special instructions to avoid danger zones and if they make trouble, the army will find them and kill them. Former friends are forced to kill or be killed; the students experience mistrust, fear, confusion and hatred, as chaos run unchecked…

“Battle Royale” serves as a cautionary tale for the teen generation. It does start off simply enough, with themes of morality and immorality are presented in the film’s first act. There is a small hole but the film’s plot holds strong as Fukasaki’s adaptation of the novel generates suspense and gritty thrills as there are no dull moments in the film. It also lets its characters speak for themselves, characterization is partly done through the use of flashbacks. Kitano (played by Takashi Kitano) is the former teacher who has his own issues, the students all have different backgrounds, and they all have different reactions to their situation as well differing motivations. I liked the characters especially those of Mitsuko (played by Kou Shibasaki, her character shines in the Special version) and Noriko (Aki Maeda), they appear to be similar sides of the same coin although very different. Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara, Death Note) is the one person who tries keep his moral beliefs, I may even go as far as his only motivation would be Noriko. Kawada (Taro Yamamoto) is the one student who was mostly an enigma throughout the film, his motivations remained unclear until the final act.
The film has a subtle but powerful social commentary as well but none as resounding as the message Fukasaki brings into exposition for teens. Fukasaki does keep the messages restrained to avoid the film from becoming ruined by a heavy-handed sentimentality. He brings the idea of “working together” which was formerly the foundation of Japanese society. Overtime, such teamwork collapses as the sheer pressure of survival proves too much as mistrust plants its ugly root. You see some students working as a team, but such “team-ups” are ultimately ruined by insecurity and fear. The film’s final act resoundingly says that one has to trust each other wholeheartedly in order to achieve success. Fukasaki also encourages today’s youth to “go for it” as if to say that the future is theirs for the taking; believe in yourself and don’t be too hasty in trusting adults. There are also several other strong messages in the film as certain dark themes in the complexities of everyday life are touched on; jealousy, fear, meekness, dishonesty, love, shame and helplessness. The characters do have a way out of this situation and they must face the problem head-on; they must do the best they can to deal with it. The reactions are pretty reflective of their own sense of morality (or immorality).

The film has sparked strong controversy in America for its main premise of “kids killing kids” and while the violence is indeed brutal and uncompromising in this director’s cut, it is not so much as to how violent it is, (I’ve seen films more violent and brutal) but the film touches a nerve that makes it hard to see kids killing kids…it is not so much the act of killing but the who is doing the killing. It is pretty disturbing to see kids acting like this, some are scared that they commit suicide, some try to take advantage of others while others revel in the violence for fun. Having innocents put in a situation where they must kill people they know to survive is the troubling part of the film. I also think that Fukasaki cautions teenagers from mocking adults and to mind themselves otherwise, the repercussions of their actions may be just be too much.
The dramatic scenes aren’t overwrought and I liked the even direction done by Fukasaki. He never allowed his social commentaries or his heavy themes and messages mess with the film’s action and violence. Fukasaki appears to also be poking fun at the dramatic sequences that anyone can form an attachment to the film even by approaching it from an exploitive, unadulterated dark fun standpoint. The film is also suspenseful as you see the death toll rise up after each ‘update’, one can easily feel dread wondering whether the characters they’ve rooted for would survive. (6-8 of them take center stage)

America easily proclaimed the film as brutal, violent and uncompromising but truth be told, the violence in “Battle Royale” isn’t something new to the experienced movie watcher. The blood and guts (with mild gore) does help the film along, but it isn’t all about the action but a matter of which Fukasaki delivers his message to Japanese society. Takeshi Kitano (Blood and Bones) is awesome as usual and Masanobu Ando is creepy as the student who never speaks. Chiaki Kuriyama (plays Chigusa) caught Tarantino’s eye that she played Go-go Yubari in “Kill Bill”. (Did I fail to mention that this is among QT’s favorite films?) “Battle Royale” is far more than an action film that portrays blood and violence, some would say that it is simply an orgy of violent behavior while others who see the message will absolutely adore the film. It is one film that has the balls to portray violence that has real emotions going for it. One thing’s for sure, it is one film that will never be forgotten and one that which Hollywood wishes it thought of the idea first--or had the guts to pull it off.
What was that some say that Asian directors can’t keep up with the big-shots of Hollywood? Those who said that deserve a Spider Finger Jab in the face…
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]

Dvd opening act Mitsuko Kitano Masanobu Ando scene

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March 09, 2013
Fukasaku was fated to conclude his career with fulmination! It may be the best satirical action picture since Robocop, and one among a scant few to manifest its callow, photogenic qualifiers as an ingroup microcosm, sans ideological impetus.
To my jubilance, I recently obtained a discounted DVD of its unrated theatrical cut to supplant the devolved, Dutch-subtitled, third-generation bootleg videocassette that I purchased via eBay in 2001. Its adjunct CG is otiose and trifling (though hardly so surfeit to deflect the prepossession this film commands), but I enjoyed the flashback sequences, which redound an appurtenant profundity to their narrative...
April 02, 2012
Indeed WP
April 02, 2012
this is a great flick!
September 14, 2009
Maybe, maybe not. I'd probably have to be in the right mood. I think of things a lot differently since my daughter's twins came along.
September 14, 2009
When I first saw this, I was more into its action and almost missed its subtle commentary. This would definitely require the viewer to be in the right mindset and mood.
September 14, 2009
I'm pretty sure about that.
September 11, 2009
 Awesome Review!  It totally sounds like something Tarantino would love.  Now that I think about it, I think this movie was based on a book called battle Royale... I love the amount of detail you went into with it.  I'm going to have to check it out.  Where did you find it?
September 12, 2009
Thanks, bud. This is a great movie; your list inspired me to post this review. Yes, it is based on the book and the DVD is on sale in amazon.
September 09, 2009
Very nice. I've still not seen this one but I've read countless comments or reviews about this through so it almost feels as though I have. Great review!!!
September 10, 2009
Dude, as Trashie says this may be the movie of the decade! 2000-2010.
September 10, 2009
I've heard this is one wild ride & perhaps the biggest mindfuck of the past decade so I believe you. I could use another maniac thrill, trust me.
September 11, 2009
I'll drop the Visitor Q review and Tetsuo Body Hammer next week...I am thinking of doing one for "Salo" but I may have to post that in exclusively in amazon. I'll let'cha know.
September 11, 2009
Cool. I will be on the lok out or prowl for the those two reviews. I would definitely love to see one on "Salo" or any Pasolini films. I have never seen that one but I do LOVE Pasolini's work. Kepp me posted on that one.
More Battle Royale reviews
review by . March 30, 2012
posted in ASIANatomy
Finally! Blu-ray BATTLE ROYALE: It Just Doesn't Get Any Better Than This!
   So much has been written about the film.  So much has been said.  So much has been debated, discussed, dissected, and so much has been praised or insulted or misunderstood.  Those of us who celebrate film will always owe a special debt to the people at Anchor Bay: for the first time since it was released, BATTLE ROYALE is now being made available – uncensored, uncut, unrated – in America.       No doubt that BATTLE ROYALE’s Blu-ray …
review by . August 08, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Class, today's assignment is to kill your fellow students.
Battle Royale is a theatrical adaptation of the Japanese novel of the same name.  The film takes place in a near future Japan under the rule of a ultra-conservative government.  In order to keep the kids in line, a class is randomly selected to participate in a Battle Royale amongst themselves.  The rules are simple.  They most kill each other until there is only one survivor.  In order to keep the game moving, the students are rigged with an explosive collar and the necklace …
Quick Tip by . October 28, 2009
Fantastic film with Takeshi Kitano. While violent, it's relatively mild when compared to Martyrs and the gore porn films making the rounds.
Quick Tip by . October 14, 2009
I don't know very much about cult Japanese gore films but this movie really makes me want to look into it. SO GOOD!
review by . May 09, 2009
Battle Royale...What more is there to say about this film? Every since I saw it on VCD a few  of years ago I've been a huge mark of this picture. I have the novel (which is a real tome and goes into gory detail about the entire ordeal) and the manga that was a spin-off/tie-in to the movie. The film and the novel are a little bit different from each other but they're both great. Words can't describe how much I love this picture.  It's a great movie that has a strong political statement …
review by . July 08, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
This is a film with an extraordinarily flimsy and unrealistic premise. It violates its own rules and internal logic. It is, essentially, a great big snuff-film.    And I really liked it.    There's not a lot you can say about this film, really. 42 middle school kids, most of them played by actors who either actually are, or at least look close to, the ages of the characters are hauled out to an island and told to kill each other until only one is left. This …
review by . April 18, 2007
posted in ASIANatomy
"Battle Royale" become a cult favorite in many corners of the world. Fukasaku wanted this movie to be viewed by all ages, but putting its gory depictions of death and blood into consideration the ratings would not allow it. The film has provoked outrage, and I think this was the intent. Children are viewed as being innocent, yet here, we see them killing each other in gruesome ways, with or without remorse. Being that I only seen this twice but on my third watch it still gets me.    As …
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With the Japanese currently leading the way in thought-provoking cinematic violence, it's only fitting that Kinji Fukasaku'sBattle Royaleis being touted as aClockwork Orangefor the 21st century. Based on the novel by Koshun Takami, the film opens with a series of fleeting images of unruly Japanese schoolchildren, whose bad behavior provides a justification for the "punishments" that will ensue. Once the prequel has been dispensed with, the classmates are drugged and awaken on an island where they find they have been fitted with dog collars that monitor their every move. Instructed by their old teacher ("Beat" Takeshi) with the aid of an upbeat MTV-style video, they are told of their fate: after an impartial lottery they have been chosen to fight each other in a three-day, no-rules contest, the "Battle Royale." Their only chance of survival is through the death of all their classmates.

Some pupils embrace their mission with zeal, while others simply give up or try to become peacemakers and revolutionaries. However, the ultimate drive for survival comes from the desire to protect the one you love. Battle Royale works on many different levels, highlighting the authorities' desperation to enforce law and order and the alienation caused by the generation gap. Whether you consider the film an important social commentary or simply watch it for the adrenaline-fueled violence, this is set to become cult viewing for the computer game ...

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Director: Kinji Fukasaku
DVD Release Date: June 15, 2004
Runtime: 122 minutes
Studio: Toei
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