Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale) (2001)
Japan (dir. Kinji Fukasaku)
Cast: Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takashi Tsukamoto, Sousuke Takaoka
Synopsis: Japan at the start of the new millennium. The country is in a state of chaos, violence by rebellious teenagers in schools is completely out of control. The government hits back with a new law: every year a school class picked at random will be cast away on a desert island to fight it out among themselves. The rules are simple: it lasts three days, everyone gets water, food and a weapon and only one may survive. Then a class on a school trip is kidnapped. When they wake up, angry teacher Kitano tells them that the collar around their necks monitors their position and can be caused to explode remotely at any moment.
Review: “Batoru Rowaiaru” is a deeply disturbing survivalist horror film that I guarantee will shock you. It mixes social commetary with extreme violence and carries a dark undertone throughout the entire length of the film. It fails to, at any point in time, get boring, excessively preachy, or stray far from the main storyline. With the exception of perhaps the confusing ending, this film looks and feels flawless. It’s not hyper glossy in the sense that the movie doesn’t feel like a super fake high-res HD (or whatever you call it) movie, but more like a grainy, foreign film that borderlines the taboo region of snuff films. Basically I’m trying to say that it has a very underground feel to it. The storyline flows almost effortlessly, and even with such a large cast of characters (which, after the first hour you instantaneously grow to love, hate, or feel indifferent to) you get just the right amount of time spent with each one.
Stranded on an island and given only one random survival tool, the group of teenage class mates start relying on their skills to survive. Some are vicious killers, others clever at manipulation. It’s intresting to see each student come into their own. Since their are so many characters to follow, you never get bored with any one in particular, and you also never feel the need to complain about too many storylines to follow because many of the characters are dispatched very quickly. I thought it was great how some students are given useful weaponry like chainsaws and guns and do not know how to operate them, and those who receive gag items like a Japanese fan manage to use what they are given to their advantage and thus steal the useful weaponry from others.
The “main characters” (if that’s what you want to call them) in this dark little film are a young couple determined to survive together (even though the rules clearly state their can only be one winner). They team up with another teen who claims to have participated in, and won, last year’s Battle Royale. It turns out he was actually lying about this, and just using the young couple to prolong his own suvival. In the end, all is resolved when it is revealed the school teacher, Kitano, has been obsessing over the girlfriend in the young couple pair, and has personally been prolonging her survival by ensuring she never entered a booby trapped zone (in the Battle Royale, certain zones are considered safe zones, and every few hours the danger/booby-trapped zones alter their position through the island). This ending confused the shit out of me, especially when the school teacher showed off his morbid, childish paintings of the girl he was obsessing over. It seemed pretty out of characte for him, and it sorta spoiled the ending (but not entirely).
“Batoru Rowaiaru” is a fantastic, dark, ultra violent film with “classic” written all over it. Some of the violence is incredibly disturbing, and a lot of the killing scenes (specifically the one where a girl poisons another girl accidentally causing a mass killing spree among a group of friends who were determined not to participate in the Battle Royale) were incredibly disturbing. It’s a grim, futuristic outlook on the youth of the world and what they may become, and it makes for one fucking sick movie.