Monday, November 1, 2010

BATTLE ROYALE (2000) - Proof the Japanese are crazy

Director Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale is a film adaptation of Koushun Takami's controversial novel of the same name. The basic theme of the novel dealt with a dystopian vision of Japan in which the govenrment randomly selects a class of high schoolers and sends them to a deserted island where upon arrival they will be given weapons and forced to kill each other until only one remains. Of course, Japan being Japan, this is only slightly controversial. After all, Japan also got nuked twice, gave the world Godzilla and weird anime fetishes, and they tend to eat some weird shit as well. On to the film however...

Battle Royale is a movie that for very obvious reasons could not have been made in the US. The plot of the film closely follows that of the novel, with the same premise of high schoolers forced to kill their friends (and rivals) off on an abandoned island. Watching it for the first time was a pretty crazy experience: it's very gory, it's shocking and probably even more troubling is the fact that it is a very funny movie. It's a macabre sensation to watch kids hacking at each other with sickles or shooting one another with Uzis and handguns while they yell out hilarious lines. With the differences in culture between America and Japan, especially the American problems with school violence and what not, this movie would've been cut to shreds by every morality group out there. But thankfully we have Japan, that wonderfully twisted, crazy archipelago where making weird movies is not only okay, but seems to have been embraced as a national pastime.

It was probably the funky haircuts if you asked me.
We are introduced to the primary protagonist, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), who after coming home to find his father had committed suicide finds himself unable to really care about his life anymore. Most of his classmates, including his best friend Nobu Yoshitoki, generally don't give a damn about life and go around school being assholes and causing trouble. In the first couple scenes, we see that Nobu has attacked the class teacher Kitano with a knife, leading to the teacher's hasty resignation. A girl, Noriko Nakagawa, is crushing on Nanahara and helps his best friend avoid capture.

Word of advice: don't stab your teachers. They might put you on a deserted island and force you to kill your friends.
A few months later as the students near their graduation, the class is sent on an end of the year trip. Aboard their bus, they get kidnapped, knocked out, and wake up to find silver electronic necklaces put on them. Some military men show up and drag the kids into an abandoned building where it's revealed that the ex-teacher Kitano is working with the government Battle Royale educational reform program. Kitano explains (with the help of a cheerful video presentation) that only one of them will be able to leave the island alive. They must kill each other off, and each student is given a duffel bag with some food, water, maps, a compass and a random weapon - some kids get shotguns, knives or a taser, and poor Nanahara gets a pot lid. Kitano is a pretty sick guy: he kills a girl outright for whispering during his instructions, and ends up blowing up the necklace on Nanahara's best friend's neck, killing poor Nobu and making Nanahara royally pissed (get it... get it?)

No, Nanahara, he's not. In fact, it looks like he's got an axe sticking out of his head.
After they get their duffel bag of goodies, the 40 or so kids are off and they have three days to kill each other off. At the end of the third day, if a single survivor hasn't emerged, all of the necklace bombs will go off killing them all. Thus begins the twisted and brutal game of hide and seek between the students. Some of them band together and try to avoid conflict. Some take a liking to the game and have fun shooting and stabbing their classmates. The story then begins to revolve around the basic issue of trust and personal survival. It's a really interesting concept pulled off in a bizarrely attractive fashion. Despite the massive amounts of bloodshed, the violence isn't really the end result the viewer is drawn towards. Instead, you're wondering who Nanahara and his tag along love interest Noriko can trust, if anyone. Good friends might just try and shoot you in the eye with a crossbow, after all. Most interesting of all, it begs to ask yourself the question, how would I do if my class was the one sent to the island? Which of your friends would gladly bust a cap on you, and which could you trust?

TL;DR - Japanese high school students forced to kill each other on a deserted island because they dont behave in class - 9/10


  1. was quite a film left me on the edge of me seat you dont know whats going to happen

  2. "you OK?"

    lol that film was awesome, didn't like BR2 as much.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys! It was a great movie, although it was pretty damn weird at times

  4. The sequel is pretty fucked up...

  5. I saw this by accident.

    I was horrified of thoughts if this ever happened to me D:

  6. lol i japanese films are off the hook!