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Battle Royale Review
by Velveteen


Battle Royale, released to Japanese theaters in 2000, can only be viewed in America by means of pirating or imported copies of the Japanese DVD, which includes an English subtitle option. Despite this, it has become an underground sensation, and with good reason.

The story takes us to an alternate Japan, where students know no bounds. They cut class, berate their teachers, and have no respect for authority. All seems loss for the Japanese school system until the government decides to take charge and take care of business by implementing a little something they'd like to call "The BR Act". Basically, this lets them set up a lottery to select one class of fifteen year olds every year to be brought to an isolated island. This seems innocent enough until it's mentioned what happens on this island. Each student is given a survival pack with a random weapon inside that can range from an AK-47 to a spatula, and their mission is to kill all their fellow students. Imagine Lord of the Flies, except in a controlled environment with a bunch of sexy, uniformed Japanese teenagers. The results of this bloodbath frenzy are seen on a TV screen early on in the movie: a girl slathered in blood smiling at the camera.

The unlucky class chosen for this movie's lottery is fooled into thinking they are going on an innocent class field trip, but are knocked-out by means of gas and awake to find themselves in a tricky situation with metal collars around their necks. These metal collars are the way the government can control these students and harness their fear. All the rules of this sick game are given to the students and the audience by a perky Japanese girl dressed up in army gear. To spice up the game even more, two transfer students that have already participated join the group.

As the students are released, the slaughter starts immediately, rewarding viewers with slashes and squirts of blood. The effects are fantastically over the top, accentuating the director's wry view of the society painted in this slice of Japanese sex-in-a-movie. Death after death flies by the screen, showing what happened at just about every conflict. Nanahara Shuya and Noriko Nakagawa are exposed as our protagonists, joining up with one of the rogue transfer students as the other rampages around the island with his imposing machine gun. Alliances are made and broken as trust fails and betrayal ensues, as can be expected of teenagers, with the voice of the hated, though strangely sad, Sensei Kitano reads the death toll every few hours.

Grindhouse-style murder and effects only add to this movie's charm and message, which goes far beyond a simple analysis of the Japanese culture of today and extends into an interpretation of life in its entirety. It is not cheapened by what would be juvenile professions of love and desperation, but instead it uses them to enrich its moral. The best thing about this movie has to be its versatility, even if you aren't interesting in the deeper aspects of the movie you can still enjoy the action and drama, Fukasaku isn't forcefeeding you anything. Battle Royale is a spectacular film, chocked full of philosophy, blood, and betrayal with a veritable assload of plot twists and surprises. Though there is a lot of gore, I would still recommend it to those weaker of heart because it is a magnificent film and there is so much substance to distract one from nausea. I heartily recommend watching this controversial film by any means necessary.




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