Main cast: Takeshi Kitano (Mr Kitano), Tatsuya Fujiwara (Shuya), Aki Maeda (Noriko), and Taro Yamamoto (Kawada)
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Somewhere later this century, Japan would hit rock bottom worse than Tamagotchi and Digimon. Their youth will get so disfranchised and anarchic (unlikely, given their low population boom but… okay, I’ll stop nitpicking). As a result, adults pass a new law most commonly known as the Battle Royale Law. From now on, every year, a ninth-grade class is picked at random from all over the country, pitched in a high-tech remote island, and given three days to kill each other off. That’s right, only one must be left standing after three days, or every survivor, who wears a special dog chain, will have his or her head blown off. To make these youngsters rock better, each is given a random weapon ranging from the mother of all bazookas to a trash can lid. Even better, every hour a few areas on the island will be declared “hot spots” – stay there and your head will be blown off. So run away and kill everybody now, kiddies.
The Lord of the Flies is like a kiddie sideshow compared to this sick, potentially enjoyable, but ultimately flawed movie.
This year, Mr Kitano leads the class of 42 nine-graders (fifteen year olds), 21 boys and 21 girls to this island. Included in this mix are two wild cards: two “exchange students”. One is an insider sent to fix the game. Another is a sociopath who just wants to kill everybody. Our heroes are the insider with a heart, Kawada, a young boy Shuya, and his girlie crush Noriko. Shuya (weapon: dustbin lid) and Noriko (weapon: binoculars) are monstrously idiotic waste of carbon material that will outrage Darwinists everywhere, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Some kids form groups to kill off others. Others form defensive groups and stake out their territories. But how could you form alliances when you know that only one must survive by the third day?
Okay, the cast looks fifteen, and this is why all these killings, gruesome and graphic, can be very disturbing. A scythe in the hands of an angry outcast girl makes her the happiest in the world as she ruthlessly cuts down all the popular girls who gave her the finger before. Have you ever seen how a girl with a penknife cuts down most brutally a boy with a crossbow? My favorite is how a bottle of potassium cyanide completely causes a group of machine-gun totting girls to self-destruct in a showdown worthy of snuff porn movies.
If the grotesque killings aren’t bad enough, they have to compound the fact these are fifteen-year old kiddies killing each other. Everybody has a crush on each other. One touching scene has Penknife Girl dying in Sensor Boy’s arms, only to learn that Sensor Boy loves AK-47 Girl. Sensor Boy seeks out AK-47 Girl only to be gunned down by AK-47 Girl herself. AK-47 Girl weeps and is so remorseful that Ms Unpopular comes by and blasts a new mouth in AK-47 Girl.
Then there’s this smart aleck, armed with a bullet proof vest, who takes tons of bullet by Mr Sociopath, fakes death, and opens his eyes when he thinks the coast is clear… only to see Mr Sociopath grinning as he unsheathes a samurai blade stolen from one of his victims. That’ll teach you for having a big head, Bulletproof Boy!
But while I admit I had a morbid time cataloguing interesting death scenes committed using interesting weapons, I am far from impressed by the two nitwits, Shuya and Noriko. These two are idiots who, in the natural selection and strong-eats-weak environment of the island, deserve to be eliminated five seconds down the road, I tell you. These two spend all their time cowering in caves and getting their useless asses rescued by long-suffering Kawada that I just feel ill seeing their useless, parasitic faces. Noriko is the worst. A typical conservative chauvinist man’s wet dream, she walks with her eyes cast to the ground and humbly addresses Shuya and other men in her life as “Mister”. She has a pair of binoculars, but does she use that freaking stupid thing? No, she “feels” that Shuya is nearby, and abandons Kawada to run blindly into the forests. She gets lost, stumbles upon Ms Unpopular, and I shock everybody in the cinema by screeching “Kill that stupid dimbulb, yes, KILL HER, KILL HER!” Alas, she doesn’t get her head blown off, more the pity. Mr Kitano, who also sees Noriko like some Pure, Virginal Martyr symbol the way Shuya and Kawada do, comes to her rescue. I want to puke.
Incidentally, a brilliant scene is Ms Unpopular, armed to the teeth with weapons, seeing Mr Kitano and her first instinct is to flee in terror. Kitano is holding only an umbrella. It’s a scene that reminds me that no matter what these kids do, they are still fifteen-year olds. How sad, really.
This movie do make me think. These kids have some of the most powerful weapons in the world at their disposal. One young girl, Ms Loudspeaker (that’s her weapon), echoes my thoughts: she calls for everyone to band together and fight their way out of this place. Alas, she gets gunned down and everyone just doesn’t trust each other to work together. If Battle Royale is a movie critical about society, it succeeds in this department.
By really, Noriko and Shuya! Gah. The ending have them playing at being refugees of law, but what they take from their homes (not credit cards, not money, but get this – mementos of Mommy and Daddy) only cement my loathing for these wastages of carbon and genetic material. They will be flattened by a bus in ten minutes tops.
Battle Royale could have been brilliant in a dark and twisted way. Unfortunately, it also transforms me into the very object it satirizes. Give me an Uzi or heck, even a pair of binoculars, and watch me gleefully brain those two useless teenagers to death. I don’t care if they drag me into the padded cell afterwards, but really, those two fricking characters are so irritating! What is the screenwriter thinking?