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Battle Royale (2001)

Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Tatsuya Fujiwara, more...
Director: Kinji Fukasaku, Kinji Fukasaku, Kinji Fukasaku
    see all cast/crew...
Genre: Action, Cult, Drama, Foreign, Horror, Science Fiction , Slashers, Post-Apocalypse, Japan, Adventure, Asian Horror
Running Time: 114 min.

In a future where society is on the verge of collapse, the government takes drastic action against the problem of rebellious teenagers in this violent sci-fi opus from Japan. In the year 2002, Japan's economy has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, and massive unemployment and inflation have thrown most adults into a state of chaos; the nation's youth culture responds with unprecedented violence, delinquency, and truancy. Desperate to restore order, the Japanese parliament responds by creating the Millennial Reform School Act, in which groups of junior high students are selected at random, sent to an isolated island, and forced to play a rigorous war game, in which all but one of their number are killed. Kitano (Beat Takeshi) is an embittered school instructor who guides the 44 students of the Zentsuji Middle School's Class B through the deadly game known as "Battle Royale," as they struggle to survive against the elements and each other. Battle Royale proved to be both successful and highly controversial in Japan, where it set box-office records and prompted political leaders to call for stricter controls on violence in Japanese entertainment; the film was initially rated R-15 (no one under 15 admitted), unusual for violent films in Japan, though director Kinji Fukasaku later prepared a re-edited version that earned a more lenient classification. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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GreenCine Member Reviews

Probably one of the best Japanese movies I've seen in a long time by TCragoEdwards May 6, 2010 - 12:23 PM PDT
A must-see for fans of Asian horror cinema. It was at times shocking and unexpected.

If you're interested in Japanese film... by Effex April 17, 2006 - 7:10 PM PDT
2 out of 2 members found this review helpful
Battle Royale represents a nice chunk of Japanese cinema from the late '90s into the '00s. Takeshi Kitano, Kinji Fukasaku, Chiaki Kuriyama(recently of Kill Bill fame) and a controversial novel, throw Verdi's Requiem in and it all comes together to make a disarmingly honest, yet enthralling film.

Fukasaku, the director should be noted for having directed such staples of Japanese cinema in the '70s as the Yakuza Papers series starting with Battles without Honor and Humanity and films like Graveyard of Honor, giving him credit for being one of the first innovators of the gritty violent realism most Yakuza movies to this day draw from. He also co-directed the Japanese half of Tora,Tora,Tora with Yoshio Masuda after Akira Kurosawa left the project.

Though some relegate BR to Japanese camp, the true message of Battle Royale is the same as Fukasaku's previous work only geared towards a new generation, be wary even of your supervisors. It should be noted before its release members of the Japanese Parliament questioned the validity of whether this film was ham-fisted violence masquerading as a film or something more. The film was released to the Japanese public after Parliament admitted the film had something real to say though the controversy made it notorious worldwide. Also of interest is Toei's refusal to allow US distribution of the film, supposedly unless it is given as good a distribution in theaters as Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, the cost of which and the film's blatant controversy leaves this film without a real distributor in the US.

The premise is simple enough, a cross between Lord of the Flies and Full Metal Jacket, the children are set on the grounds of an island and forced to kill each other to the last one as a show of force that adults are still in control of an ever-increasingly rebellious youth. The children find out that no one will save them and the degeneration of the morals and social norms of the children are stripped with alarming believability. The violence is not glorified and just as Fukasaku displayed in his old yakuza films, these are fights without honor but of desperation and a tinge of flat remorse, courtesy of Kitano's character. Character development and plot constraints are the main problems of BR, though the special edition offers a few more scenes that add more insights into a few of the characters.

Battle Royale is a classic of Japan's recent cinema and is a poignant final message from a Japanese cinema guru who has always displayed a distrust of authority and a flare for action.

No Beating Around the Bush! by ahogue August 26, 2005 - 3:00 PM PDT
8 out of 11 members found this review helpful
Let's get one thing straight from the start: this is not a great film. Surprised? Of course not. You haven't seen it yet, but you already know it's no Citizen Kane.

Good, now that's out of the way, you can take all of the glowing comments I am about to make in the right way. Battle Royale is a fine film, made with passion and sincerity by one of Japan's great directors, Kinji Fukasaku. Is this film outlandish, violent, direct and unsubtle? Yes, it is! Is that bad? Not necessarily! Indirection and complexity are not good things in themselves, nor are directness and a refusal to beat around the bush bad things. Battle Royale is no intellectual achievement, but it is sincere, compassionate, and very well made.

I had no idea that this film might be anything other than your typical Japanese b horror flick when I first heard of it. At the time I did not know Fukasaku's excellent early work, particularly the yakuza films Battles without Honor and Humanity and Street Mobster. Both of these films are masterful, gritty, hard hitting gang dramas. Looking over the rest of his work it's clear that his staples have largely remained yakuza and samurai pictures. So why would Fukasaku, then in his seventies, decide to make a strange science fiction film like Battle Royale?

People who complain about the bloodiness of this movie probably do not understand that Fukasaku is trying to leave something behind for young people, to give them some of his wisdom. Yes, he does it with a good amount of violence, but this violence, as in his earlier films, is not presented simply for titillation, and judging by its popularity in Japan Fukasaku's representation of human brutality and intergenerational conflict must have struck a deep chord with Japan's young people.

So is a film so oriented toward teenagers worth watching for adults? Yes, it is. What Fukasaku has to say is not subtle, but it is indeed an uncanny and rather satirical exaggeration of some unfortunate truths about human character and society. It is because these truths only start to become evident to humans at a certain age that it speaks more directly to young people, but this by no means makes it irrelevant to adults.

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GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.78)
550 Votes
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