Saturday, February 18, 2012

Battle Royale (2000)



     So with all the buzz about this film's official US Blu-ray release coming up in late-March, over 11 years after the film's original release, I felt like I should definitely review this one. (Not to mention it's one of my favorite films!) I was surprised to find the US release coming up soon because this film is pretty well known in some circles. When I started my Netflix account, it was one of the first movies that I rented. One of the biggest draws for me being the super hottie Chiaki Kuriyama (Kill Bill Vol. 1) but this is about more than just a chance to see a bunch of Japanese schoolgirls...

     The movie starts off by introducing the fall of the nation. Unemployment is rampant and the high school kids are starting to rebel so, to keep the kids in line, the adults passed what they called the Millennium Educational Reform Act... otherwise known as... the BR Act!!! (Guess what the BR stands for??)  Soon after, we see an entire class of kids gassed and taken to an isolated island where they're fitted with electronic collars. There are little explosives fitted into the collars and will detonate should one of these students enter the off-limit zones, these zones are to change daily. They're given limited supplies for survival and some are given weapons to offset any natural advantage that the others may have over them. There are a couple of kids who seem to be natural killers and are actually excited for the game to begin. Once the rules are explained, the kids are released into the field to hunt each other down. Some of the kids clique up and some "friends" betray one another. No one is sure who to trust as there can only be ONE winner. How would any teenagers be able to trust each other, much less band together and fight for a united cause? Well, one of the kids turns out to be the previous winner of Battle Royale and plans to avenge the loss of his beloved in last year's BR. Can any of the kids work together long enough to stop the adults from destroying the youth of the future?

     This brutal film, that depicts teenagers killing each other on an island, is based on a book of the same name. Written by Koushun Takami, this popular story was adapted into both the film and a manga series. Another reason I felt like touching on this movie is because a film adaptation of the book The Hunger Games is set for a March 23, 2012 release. Author Suzanne Collins denies knowing of Battle Royale's existence until she supposedly "finished" her book. (Despite the fact that The Hunger Games came out almost a full 10 years after Battle Royale's original release in Japan!!!) Both of these books obviously draw from the same inspiration, similar to films such as The Running Man and Death Race 2000. The big spin on Battle Royale was that it was a bunch of high school kids killing each other, which I'm sure is the big draw for fans of THG. In the end, even if The Hunger Games was meant to be a Battle Royale knockoff, BR does it better by pitting an entire class together. I believe that two representatives are chosen from one of 12 districts to fight for food. That's only 24 kids, as opposed to BR's 42 students, and the kids are from different districts!!! Kids that don't know each other have no reason to hold back, what could be the tension there? Battle Royale makes you think about what it would be like to have to kill your own best friend. Someone that you might've grown up with or started dating and have fallen in "love" with. Bonds that you've made over the years must be severed in order to survive. That's some real drama. You're hungry? Why don't you kill each other for this steak? Sounds more like Bumfights to me. Another thing that I really liked about the film is that not every teenager was so adept at killing. Some couldn't even believe the situation they were in and were terrified at the thought of killing a classmate. This graphically depicts this drama and sets you on the edge of your seat, waiting to see what happens next to this group of high school students with varying points-of-view on the situation they're all stuck in. The Hunger Games is about a bunch of starving people who are willing to kill for food. Who the hell wouldn't?!? I understand vegetarians not wanting to kill animals for food, but I can name at least a dozen people who would gladly kill a vegetarian for a hamburger. (I'm just sayin....) The good news is Battle Royale's Blu-ray release is slated for March 20, 2012 a full 3 days before The Hunger Games hits theaters (HA!)

     So forget The Hunger Games, go pick up the Battle Royale Blu-Ray and wait to rent The Hunger Games on DVD if you really want to see it. (With a PG-13 rating, you either have to be a kid or a die-hard fan to appreciate)

Nudity: None. The movie's rating is for violence and some coarse language

Gore: Man, this wasn't overly gory but was pretty bloody. Typical with most Asian films, blood is emphasized over visceral violence. When the necklaces are activated, we see teenagers getting their throats blown out with explosives and blood sprays everywhere. People are shot, stabbed, and some even jump to their own death off of a cliff.

Awesome: to the MAX!!! This is one of my favorite films of all time. Quentin Tarantino has even been quoted as recently as 2009 saying that this film is his favorite movie of all time. Despite having hot Japanese schoolgirls, covered in blood, I find the plot to be really interesting as well. I'm typically a zombie movie fan, so it's easy for me to imagine getting together with my friends and going out to hunt a common enemy. This film takes it out of that frame of mind and asks the question, could you kill your best friend? (Which happens to be the movie's tagline!) Knowing that there can be only one survivors makes you wonder which one of your friends you could really trust in a situation like that. Friends always say that they'll be there for you... but would they be willing to die for you too? Who would've thought that watching a group of ninth graders savagely kill each other could be this much fun?! (Man, Freshman Fridays over in Japan are super harsh....)