Originally banned in U.S. shores, the original “Battle Royale” (2000) became a much talked-about phenomenon and a copy of the film became sort of a forbidden fruit among international cinema fans. It was understandable that America wanted to keep the film away since the very premise of kids killing kids would be highly controversial. It was until later (after 5-6 years) that the theatrical cut of the film was released but then there was an already hot “director’s cut’ circulating in Asia and Europe. The second film “Battle Royale: Requiem” (2003) attained some success, but it just could match up with the emotions, horror and dark premise of the first film. Anchor Bay Entertainment has finally released blurays of the two films and boy, do they look pristine in their uncut, unedited form. Funny that they released this collection just before "The Hunger Games" was released in U.S. theaters...
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 Ayana Noguchi, 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 first film also comes alive with a lot of social and political commentaries that made it a cult classic.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Battle Royale Requiem: Directed by Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku
Instead of the original’s ‘reality show’ backdrop, this film goes into a much larger environment as this time the story focuses on one of the survivors of the events of the first movie, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara). He has now founded a group made up of former Battle Royale combatants in opposition to this new Japan by performing terrorist attacks all over the country. In response, the Japanese government had created a new game called “Battle Royale 2”, which has been indoctrinated by a mysterious enigma (played by Riki Takeuchi). This new game would take new contestants (complete with explosive collars) to an island where Shuya’s group “Wild Seven” is believed to have been holed up. The iniative: kill Shuya Nanahara before the expiration of the 3-day deadline.
The second film is no less disturbing and dark as the original but there were some issues in the manner it was paced and executed. The second film serves up different surprises and twists, and one question would come to mind; will the new combatants join Shuya’s group or will they fulfill their mandate? The same themes that made the film rich with gritty appeal and the kills are as kept in the same gruesome fashion in “Requiem”. But despite the film’s tempo, Riki Takeuchi just cannot match Takeshi Kitano’s performance, and his character lacks solid development. Also, while the film questions Shuya’s character whether he is a visionary or a perpetrator, the film struggled to deliver on the emotional drama that made the first film so powerful. It is technically impressive, and “Requiem” does have its moments of raw edginess and grisly atmosphere as it presents a very visceral feel and has a climactic final encounter; however, much of the film is spent with the characters talking that succumbed to uninspired personal issues that came dangerously close to overwrought acting and socio-political rhetoric. It does present some thought-provoking questions as the viewer is set to ponder just who is the hero and who is the damned. Despite its issues, “Requiem” is solid enough as a sequel.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Bluray presentation: The set comes in a beautiful case that resembles a notebook that contains 4 discs. The case has pages that have movie stills and maps that were seen in the movie. This set includes both the director’s cut and theatrical cut of the first film. The image quality of the two movies are real good, and considering the films age, it scores a good 4/5. There are some soft spots, but Anchor Bay did a fabulous job. It has a look that stayed true to its original presentation. The true HD audio lost-less sound is just as impressive. This is a great presentation of the film.
Extras: Making of featurette, premieres, trailers (even includes a Tarantino version of the trailer), special effects and an instructional video that celebrates the director’s birthday. The documentary is a must see for purists. This is the ultimate collection for fans of the films.
Blu-Ray Essential [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars] Special Thanks goes out to Anchor Bay and Amazon.com for providing me this bluray collection for a review.
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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 generation...