Jun 25, 2010

[Movies] Battle Royale / Batoru Rowaiaru (2000)

Battle Royale / Batoru Rowaiaru (2000)The world of Asian cinema is both beautiful and strange at the same time, depending on what movie you encounter. It's not often I encounter something I don't like, but then I do have an appreciation for many things.

Japanese movies in particular are quite a treat, but then I'm also a major fan of Japanese culture in general. Their creativity tends to go in directions I totally don't expect and I end up being continually surprised by the results. Whatever happened in that part of the world to result in such consistently out of this world ideas and talent, I'm not going to question it. Best to just sit back and enjoy the results.

As much as I don't tend to favor the more violent movies given they end up being shallow plot-wise, this was certainly surprised me. Then again. this is a Japanese movie and not some Western piece of trash put together by the likes of Michael Bay or something.

I don't know why it took me so long before finally watching this movie. Once I had gotten through it, I now better understand what everyone has been referencing in recent years and I regret having missed out on such an iconic movie.


Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru) is the 2000 movie adaptation of the book of the same name by author Kenta Fukasaku. The plot is a strange one - due to high unemployment and a state of economic collapse, a law is eventually passed to have a single class of students picked out once a year to be made to participate in a deadly game.

Shuya Nanahara as he appears in the manga.Image via Wikipedia
Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and his classmates find themselves to be this very section. It started out as what they thought to be a class trip until they are gassed and brought to an isolated island. They woke up and were told the rules of engagement - each would be given supplies and a weapon and they had three days to kill all the others. If more than one person was alive after three days, then the electronic collars that had been put on all of them would explode.

And so the game begins and the kids do their best to survive. Some start the games with guns of different varieties while others end up with strange non-offensive items like binoculars or a bullet proof vest. Shuya sticks with Noriko Nakagawa (Aki Maeda) and the two eventually end up in an odd alliance of sorts with the "transfer" student Hiroki Sugimura (Sousuke Takaoka), who turned out to be a survivor of a previous Battle Royale. Other notable players include Kazuo Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando), who actually volunteered to compete in this game for fun. And there's Mitsuko Souma (Kou Shibasaki), who uses her raw sexuality and her wiles to advance in the game.

The movie is violent almost to the extent of being nearly absurd, but then that's really in line with the concept of the story. These are a bunch of kids killing each other after all so you can't expect things to be all sunshine and cheery. There was a lot of backlash against the movie because of the violence and the kind of warped "values" the story presented, but that really didn't take away from how interesting the story really is. And yes, the kills at times are pretty intense and almost realistic while others seem comical - like a cheap TV production full of fake blood and such. Plus the movie dips in and out of an almost light tone by showing  running tally of the dead every "12" hours of the game within a movie context.

As seemingly shallow the concept is on the surface, it does become an interesting medium for exploring the lives of these teenagers in a somewhat extreme situation. There's something about this kind of a stressful environment that really helps distill these characters into their more base personality elements. Then again. I am a Dune fan, and so I'm all for learning life experiences under harsh conditions and the like. I blame Frank Herbert for convincing me of the potential effectiveness of this methodology.

Overall, the movie is very entertaining and a heck of a lot of fun despite its almost macabre and morbid plot. The ending may have that weird what-the-heck-was-that kind of feeling to it. But of course if you've ever seen other Japanese movies, then you should be somewhat used to that kind of an ending as well.

Battle Royale is a great movie for a night with friends over lots of alcohol. It gets 4 crazy individual weapons out of a possible 5.
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2 comments:

Kelzie said...

BR is how i imagine the Sardaukar was trained in Salusa Secundus.

on that other note ... Shibasaki Kou is FTW & that she'd be a great Honored Matre. Can't wait for her next movie-- Ooku ... that you should also see

rOckY said...

Haha, I think Salusa Secundus was probably even worse. Imagine Piter doing the orientation video, LOL

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