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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.93%
Average: 1.46%
Pretty Bad: 0.97%
Total Crap: 2.91%

6 reviews, 170 user ratings

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Battle Royale
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by Mike Bracken

"Survivor meets Lord of the Flies meets The Most Dangerous Game..."
4 stars

What would you get if you crossed Lord of the Flies, Survivor, and The Most Dangerous Game? You’d probably end up with Kinji Fukasaku’s film Battle Royale -- a Japanese movie guaranteed to be the most controversial release this year.

Based on a popular novel by Koshun Takami, Battle Royale is the ultimate game of survival. With the Japanese economy in a tailspin (title cards let us know that unemployment figures have swelled into the double digits) and the youth of the country increasingly more violent and wayward, the government enacts the Millenial Reform School Act (also known as the BR Act). This governmental edict stipulates that each year, one class of ninth grade students are chosen at random, taken to a small island, armed, and forced to fight to the death.

This year’s battle involves Class B from a local middle school, a class comprised of your usual assortment of high school kids. They’re rounded up for what they think is a school field trip, but awake to find themselves on an island and held hostage by armed guards commanded by the game’s ringleader Kitano (the always entertaining Takeshi Kitano).

The students are forced to watch a videotape (which is totally Japanese, complete with a cheerleader-like announcer urging everyone to do their best) highlighting the rules of the game. The rules are simple—kill everyone. Each student is fitted with an electronic collar which will detonate if they wander into various ‘danger zones’ on the island, or if there is more than 1 survivor left at the end of 72 hours. Each is then given a bag with food, water, a map of the island, and a weapon. Some are luckier than others (a few get guns, one gets an uzi), while others wind up with binoculars, or a global positioning system.

The rules in place, the kids are released onto the island, and the game begins. What follows is both an interesting commentary on human nature and trust, as well as some biting social commentary aimed at the traditional Japanese values.

While we get to know most of the class in at least some fashion (even if it is in the moments before they die a particularly violent and painful death), the story focuses primarily on two characters—Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda). This young couple spends most of their time trying to avoid confrontation and find a way out—while only killing when they’re forced to defend themselves. Several other characters figure prominently into the narrative as well—including two transfer students—Kawada and Kiriyama—who’ve been brought into the game under mysterious circumstances.

Faced with a kill or be killed situation, the students all react differently. Some refuse to kill and kill themselves (or are quickly picked off by more aggressive classmates), others look at the game as an opportunity to take revenge on their enemies, some try and hack into the computers of the control center and end the game, and others simply try to lay low and stay alive.

Meanwhile, Kitano oversees things from his command center, announcing the newly dead every few hours along with the new ‘danger zones’ that are off limits. He’s also watching his personal life slowly unravel through a series of phone calls with his family.

The film itself has a somewhat humorous approach—as each victim is killed, we’re treated to an updated scorecard which lists who died and how many students are left. It’s sort of a morbid touch, but I found it amusing anyway.

Needless to say, the film caused quite the outrage in Japan, where student violence is starting to become an issue like it is here in America. Grandstanding politicians (who found the film an easy target guaranteed to boost their popularity) expressed outrage and the film was nearly banned (no small feat in Japan, a country that has very few issues with cinematic violence). The end result was a rating that restricted viewing to those over the age of 15.

It’s my estimation that the reason for the outrage is twofold. First off Fukasaku (who directed the Japanese segments of Tora, Tora, Tora and is no stranger to cinematic mayhem despite the fact that he’s 70 years old) runs wild with the idea, turning in a film that drops many of the novels reported social statemtents (the Japan in the film is an alternate Japan, one that was victorious in World War 2) and turns the film into an exploitation film of first order. Fukasaku shies away from nothing here—the film is violent, gory, and confrontational in its presentation. Only the end (which I feel cops out in a way) gives any indication that this was a mainstream release designed to do big business.

The second issue (and arguably the greater issue, given Japan’s obsession with image) is that it portrays Japanese culture in a less than positive light. Japan’s current economic situation is not great, and the young generation—used to living the good life off the work of their parents—is increasingly more disillusioned with the ‘go to school, get to the good university, get a good job and work hard’ manifesto that has been one of the country’s driving philosophies for as long as I can remember.

The current Japanese youth aren’t that far removed from the ones hinted at in Battle Royale--they’re increasingly more disenchanted with the old ways and far more content to live at home--letting their parents provide for them--than previous generations were.

The film also makes pointed commentary about the cutthroat nature of the Japanese education system—a system well known for its fierce competition to do well and succeed after the ninth grade level. Kids commit suicide over bad grades in Japan—a fact that proves just how intense the competition to succeed on the national tests can be. Japanese youth seem to be under a great deal of pressure—which could account for some of their newfound violent tendencies. However, none of the current pressure compares to being forced to kill your classmates in order to succeed…but one has to wonder if something like that could be very far off.

Of course, you don’t have to catch any of this subtext to enjoy the film. You can look for the deeper meanings (most of which were reportedly part of the novel but excised from the script), but you can get just as much enjoyment out of Battle Royale by viewing it solely as teen exploitation flick (not unlike our own American slasher films, only here the kids kill each other and virginity guarantees you nothing). That’s the beauty of Fukasaku’s film—you can have it both ways.

Takeshi Kitano gives the strongest performance in the film (which is to be expected). Kitano’s character is a terrifying man who takes a perverse glee in overseeing the game. He’s made all the more menacing thanks to his scarred face and facial tic (all remnants from his near fatal 1994 motorcycle accident). It’s a testament to both Beat’s acting (and the script itself) that we can view Kitano as a multi-faceted character. While you’re likely to spend much of the film fearing him (if not out and out disliking him), it’s hard not to feel for him a bit at the climax.

And that’s one of the strengths of the film. Battle Royale is essentially an ensemble piece, filled with kids who are either marked as heroes or villains from the outset. However, in several instances, we watch as villains become heroes all in the space of a single scene. That you feel any kind of sorrow or remorse for the fate these characters suffer seems to make the film more than mere exploitation.

If there’s any real downside to the film it’s that in focusing on teenage characters, Fukasaku and company deliver a lot of melodramatic teenaged angst. Many of the kids don’t come across as real, per se, but rather as caricatures of stereotypical teen traits. That’s not a bad thing necessarily, as a film with 40 characters is never going to be able to develop them fully, but the fact that many of them get to make dramatic deathbed pronouncements is. Few people simply die silently in Battle Royale, and the power of any last breath statements is diminished in each instance this device recurs.

Given the film’s controversial and exploitative subject matter (particularly in this post Columbine era) Battle Royale has only shown at several film festivals here in America. It’s doubtful, given the political climate of this country, that the film will ever get a wide release here in the States. However, the movie has recently come available on VCD (which is like the bastard brother of DVD) and can be picked up for under $15 by those seeking to experience it for themselves.

There’s little doubt that Battle Royale is bound to be one of the most controversial films around this year. The subject matter, the violence, and the fact that kids are forced to kill kids all but guarantees that Kinji Fukasaku’s film will go down in the annals of cult film history. While the film does occasionally become overly sentimental, it’s also got a quite a bit of biting social commentary—commentary that probably hits a little too close to home for both the Japanese and the Americans.

At any rate, if you’re a fan of exploitation cinema, Beat Takeshi Kitano, or cult film, track down a copy of this movie. It’s certainly worth seeing.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 06/29/01 05:23:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: Actionfest 2011 For more in the Actionfest 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the New York Asian Film Festival 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2013 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/30/14 Ionicera great satire, very suspenseful 5 stars
12/20/12 shooters33 This was the best movie I have seen all year if ever. THG totally ripped this off !! 5 stars
9/13/12 Marty Come on guys. It's a shock value film that's kinda fun. Too inconsistent to have meaning. 2 stars
5/16/10 wlad the best movie ever made. it has it all - action,and a deep underlying meening. This is art 5 stars
12/23/09 Jeff Mind-blowing film! 5 stars
9/08/09 Lewis This actually is the best feature-length film ever. No joke. 5 stars
2/17/09 Lucy My absolute favourite film of all time 5 stars
6/25/08 ES It was way better than I expected 4 stars
5/17/08 ash Deserves a headscratch with its pretext, but events in the "game" itself make us reflect 4 stars
5/07/08 Dimitri I really, really loved this movie, a bit violent but strong. 5 stars
11/22/07 Luke FUCKING AMAZING! 5 stars
7/24/07 AnthonyBenigno Despite the manga being superior, i love the different view the movie puts on the story! 5 stars
2/20/07 KitaShu Amazing movie - a must see for those who love action! Like me! XD 5 stars
2/06/07 CoDeMaStEr its so cool do any 1 no wen nomber 3 is out 5 stars
12/27/06 mE The best movie ever! 5 stars
12/09/06 Porcelain Its actually aesthetic through the gore.Very real display of survival instinct in humans. 5 stars
11/28/06 Bella amazing book, kick ass film, ram the point home - this is hardcore 5 stars
8/10/06 melivorous Masanabu Ando, Chiaki Kiriyama, Beat Takashi!! what more could you ask for! 5 stars
7/13/06 sayori hayatýmda en güzel filmdir. mesala chiaki kuriyama, kou shibasaki ve aki maeda... 4 stars
5/23/06 Agent Sands One of the great gorefests. Takeshi, as always, delivers with a wryly hilarious performance 5 stars
12/03/05 Jennifer S. This was just an excellent movie, start to finish. 5 stars
11/29/05 tr3svirus amazing movie 5 stars
10/16/05 Anus ABIGAIL CAN SUCK MY COCK ANYDAY! 5 stars
8/31/05 Christine Hosie great film!! strange in it's barbarism 5 stars
5/07/05 K. Sear Some weak moments but, all in all, a great movie. 5 stars
4/01/05 Seresh I can't get it out of my head. absolutley mind blowing 5 stars
3/22/05 The Mockingbird why cant we make something like this? one of my all time favs 5 stars
2/10/05 Scapegoats What a great movie...who ever says it sucks should be tared and feathered. 5 stars
1/29/05 Abigail sucks totally.. makes no sense - YUK! 1 stars
1/17/05 Dark Lord Brilliant, Shocking, Funny and Scary all at the same time. 5 stars
1/08/05 Pent I agree with shogo kawada 5 stars
12/08/04 Shogo-Kawada You know this is also a real game in east asia.. 4 stars
12/02/04 Al Guy More pathos than I would have thought. Great movie. 5 stars
11/28/04 Joe One more reason why hollywood sucks 5 stars
11/09/04 Alaric L A film about violence in human nature 4 stars
10/22/04 sofia the most mazing film i have ever seen ( no joke) 5 stars
8/11/04 Lee Extremely nice. I loved this movie!!!! R.I.P.Kinji Fukasaku 5 stars
8/10/04 kyotomatt Decent, but not as good as the book. Takeshi ruined the ending. 3 stars
8/06/04 tohru senno its the best war movie ever 5 stars
8/03/04 SpuD I actually found the film quite humourous :) We have it on DVD here too! Yey ^^ 5 stars
7/25/04 Patrick Puhl If you were appalled, you missed the point 5 stars
7/07/04 dead next door cool flick 5 stars
6/15/04 Tuan Nguyen Excellent story, music, and bloody gore. If you have watced it, you're one lucky bastard. 5 stars
6/03/04 Mr Mayagi Must see movie Daniel-san. 5 stars
6/03/04 VOS Outrageously riveting and compelling. It's a must see! 5 stars
6/03/04 Dave This film remains with you long after you have watched it. A disturbing film. QUITE AMAZING 5 stars
5/18/04 taintedlunch You've never seen anything like it. Find this movie! 5 stars
5/17/04 Geoff hilarious, exciting... just plain awesome 5 stars
4/12/04 Ryan Phallus Brutal, Intense, Immersive, Thought-Provoking, and hard to catagorize. 5 stars
4/01/04 Noriko Awesome 5 stars
3/16/04 Amzad H Visually disturbing, but brilliant!! 5 stars
2/14/04 Jaznng I thought this had an interesting point of view and the different situations showed alot. 4 stars
1/29/04 Meghan Carr An Awesome, thought provoking movie! 5 stars
1/23/04 JC Wow! I expected the movie to be good but not THAT good. Fantastic film. 5 stars
1/15/04 Colleen This movie was brilliant. I'm about done with the book right now, which might be better. =b 5 stars
1/05/04 Ben Good film with an astounding idea behind the carnage. Read the book as well if you can. 5 stars
1/03/04 Mark Simply one of the greatest movie's ever made, a classic 5 stars
12/22/03 jamie one of the best movies out there. 5 stars
12/15/03 delia johnson the movie fell short, but the concept is fucking awesome. 4 stars
11/14/03 Igor Insane violence + good story = kick ass movie. 5 stars
11/04/03 ThuG_uNit Very good Movie 5 stars
10/18/03 Vince This is one fucked up movie. 5 stars
10/15/03 Ying its a GREAAAAAT movie.Everybody who's niet a chickenshit has got to see it!!!!!! 5 stars
10/15/03 alsiha Best movie ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/15/03 AVG AZN BOI c'mon ppl, hoo dun lik ta c a movie wit kyute jap skool gurlz killin dere best friendz? 5 stars
10/05/03 john holdsworth one of the best films ever!!! 5 stars
9/23/03 aya wonderful 5 stars
9/06/03 mark excellent movie 5 stars
8/11/03 Richard Fitzmaurice This film is the best i have seen in a very long time! 5 stars
8/04/03 Noriko Yanagida (yes my real name is Noriko) This movie is disturbingly wonderful! A cult classic. ^_^ 5 stars
7/20/03 BookWorm Read the book, screw the film 1 stars
7/12/03 Dreamwalker Fantastic film, great characterization. Shame that it's bound to be badly remade in the U.S 5 stars
7/02/03 jih absolutely fucking amazing the guys who say total crap are retards with not friends. 5 stars
6/24/03 Pete B beautiful film! You see this remade for the American market! 5 stars
6/21/03 Kevin Fuld Awesome Movie! 5 stars
6/21/03 Kay My god.... a fascinating look at a society near you! 5 stars
6/14/03 ARM GHOST Battle Royale is one of those Movies that need to get into the state, 5 stars
6/12/03 Jerry DO'H!! DO'H!! DO'H!! Ah,my last letter. DO'H!!!! 1 stars
6/12/03 WakeAngel MORE MORE MORE 5 stars
6/11/03 jessie it was a mad and sad movie 5 stars
6/11/03 Rob i am a fan of asian films anyway but this was the best 5 stars
6/09/03 Ronald Blam this piece of crap!! 1 stars
6/08/03 Ben Barr I thought it was a great movie. I first heard about it in Pulp magazine. 5 stars
6/06/03 Chris Great fun, has such an energy to it, but also quite harrowing as well 5 stars
6/04/03 MoMusumefan21 Very huanting, you will always remember this movie. Cant wait for BR II in July 2003! 5 stars
6/04/03 AJ good movie. . . it really makes you think 4 stars
5/27/03 Robbie Awful!! I give this movie 0% 1 stars
5/27/03 Temple This is by far one of the best films ever made! 5 stars
5/24/03 Freddie Overall message is deep, but lacking in tact in places. Needs a better ending. 4 stars
5/23/03 Korny Perhaps the best movie ever made. 5 stars
5/23/03 johnathan lamplough this movie is the coolest ive seen in ages and ive seen reloaded! 5 stars
5/22/03 Genshu Makota Still a great piece of Japanese Cinematography. Should definitely be U.S bound! 5 stars
5/20/03 Williefish hilarious! 5 stars
5/19/03 ginger Awsome 5 stars
5/19/03 JEff very unique movie...i loved it 5 stars
5/06/03 Frank This film is amazing. I couldn't believe what I had saw when it was finally over. 5 stars
4/21/03 Adam Rosenberg This movie has made it onto my top 75 i give it 5 stars 5 stars
4/18/03 JAZY J 2003 I KNOW I WAS THERE! 5 stars
4/12/03 William Stewart The Kubrik of Japan, very impressive. 5 stars
4/08/03 Dave Non-stop ultra violence with a wicked sense of humour. Now that's entertainment. 5 stars
4/07/03 Wayne A dark and thrilling fairy tale of modern violence 5 stars
3/31/03 Kyle I'm at a loss for words. Incredible. 5 stars
2/27/03 NOS Watched it pressing the fast forward button of my remote 2 stars
2/14/03 Steve Great 5 stars
2/04/03 Mr Temple It's the dogs bollocks!!! 5 stars
1/11/03 Amanda Norcross Watch out for those transfer students!! 5 stars
1/09/03 Safia One of the best Japanese movies I've seen 5 stars
11/24/02 DRiON MITSUKO KICK'S ASS!!! 5 stars
11/12/02 Fonq35 Simply awesome... you will not see anything like this from Hollywood - treasure it! 5 stars
10/12/02 H3LLSING One of the best Japanese movies I've ever seen next to "Wild Zero". Watch it! Love it! 5 stars
9/29/02 HRaven now..I want the DVD... Worth the bill ! 5 stars
9/27/02 Azhrarn Who's your daddy bitch? 5 stars
9/18/02 DPop Amazing and Thought Provoking 5 stars
9/11/02 Vivek Bansal Shocking, controversial, reminds me of middle school. 5 stars
9/10/02 Reiko twisted beyond words.. I loved it... 5 stars
9/04/02 Patrick Ng One of the best movies I've ever seen! 5 stars
8/16/02 Steve Firstenburg One of the most original and original movies to come out of any country in quite a while. 5 stars
8/08/02 Roy good movie, got me paranoid. 5 stars
8/07/02 Jon Warner A profoundly subversive cult film - horrific, emotionally draining, and funny, too!!?? 5 stars
8/03/02 Andy H it blew my mind, US movies don't take this much sad 5 stars
7/30/02 edward h. Really disturbing film - powerful. 5 stars
7/26/02 Joe Blow aWESOME! 5 stars
7/17/02 Chronobyte Very Entertaining 5 stars
4/15/02 DNA quite enjoyable 5 stars
4/14/02 Krash i personally think that the law should be passed for real 5 stars
3/27/02 Tom Steer Entered my top 3 all time films 20 mins after it started 5 stars
3/20/02 Sakonchai Jiravanichkul How to survive in the real life is the truly question for our teenager. 3 stars
3/19/02 JoB Kick ass movie!!! 5 stars
3/13/02 cARa perty boring 1 stars
3/12/02 Roy O' Bannon I love it!!!!! Best Movie for Years 5 stars
3/10/02 Sugimura-sama It's violent movie!!I love it!! 5 stars
2/18/02 Andrew Carden Interesting Movie...Good Direction and Screenplay. 4 stars
2/17/02 atom The film is a bloody master peice 5 stars
2/15/02 Buddy Disturbing, ultra-violent...beautifully filmed & acted. 5 stars
2/08/02 Hanna So totally overwhealming...I will have to leave a few days before my next viewing... 5 stars
2/02/02 Death Blackdekker frightening, thought-provoking, exciting and well directed 5 stars
1/31/02 Nosty Violent and shocking, unforgettable! 5 stars
1/27/02 Jonny Mindless brutality coupled with thought-provoking drama 5 stars
1/10/02 DIN Shockingly GOOD!No.1 on my list of EXCELLENT movies........EVER :) 5 stars
12/11/01 Kevin Disturbing but great movie. 5 stars
12/06/01 Zed Totally intriguing. 5 stars
12/02/01 AK Horribly grotesque, yet superb story, most disturbing movie I´ve ever seen. 5 stars
11/30/01 Haley A disturbing, inspiring and astounding film. Cant be beaten. 5 stars
11/27/01 sdfr violent shocker or cautionary fable for our generation? works well as both. 4 stars
11/21/01 Claire Thornley This movie blew me away!! Look beyond the press and find one of the best films of the year 5 stars
11/19/01 KELLY MORRIS Not bad kind of Series 7 meets Cherry falls quite wierd 4 stars
11/08/01 Gopal Natarajan Brutal and disturbing, but darkly funny and poignant. 4 stars
10/28/01 jot027 fuckin' outstanding 5 stars
10/23/01 Ed ( Very violent but still a great film. 5 stars
10/21/01 Quentin Stories for the soul...........DISTURBING! 5 stars
10/14/01 Jason Columbine could have been avoided if students had an outlet like this 5 stars
10/10/01 John Kirriemuir Disturbing, compulsive, and confrontational - what would you do? 5 stars
9/29/01 Nyanko-chan Disturbing as all fuck, hell yeah, but just the premise is thoughtprovoking! 5 stars
9/28/01 HyperAkuma what can i say, its a japanese movie. truly an interesting way, awesome movie. 5 stars
9/15/01 ym quite nice 4 stars
9/13/01 Ian Davies Quite simply, the best film of the year. 5 stars
8/29/01 Azek This is by far, one of the best movies I've seen in a long time. You need to see this one! 5 stars
8/22/01 Key I don't care how you do it, but you have to get your hands on this movie! 5 stars
8/20/01 k. I wish BR could be real! (my own death is worth a chance to kill mt classmates!) 5 stars
8/19/01 Rave669 Awesome flick! just got it today! worth every cent! 5 stars
8/16/01 AstroKender all I can say is: Whoa...Intense. 3 stars
8/13/01 talent14 A familiar, but COMPLETELY absorbing film. 4 stars
8/11/01 Vienna Unbelievable Amazing Piece of Work 5 stars
8/08/01 Kevin Collison Amazing effects! Halfway through, I realized the kids weren't actually killing eachother! 5 stars
8/06/01 Really Stunned person. SHOCKINGLY GOOD. Watch it. Then think. 5 stars
8/06/01 T Nguyen A powerful fable. Life is that sad? 5 stars
7/11/01 Boomshanka Top notch stuff, too violent for Americans, great for the rest of us. 5 stars
7/06/01 Kyle Druckenmiller Damn movie had me afraid to sleep 5 stars
6/15/01 Bob Johnson Great Film see it if you can 5 stars
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Directed by
  Kinji Fukasaku

Written by
  Kenta Fukasaku
  Koushun Takami

  Tatsuya Fujiwara
  Aki Maeda
  Taro Yamamoto
  Masanobu Ando

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