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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 billypilgrimnz

"Brilliant social statement masquerading as exploitation"
5 stars

A victim of people ignoring the "Don't judge a book by its cover" cliche, this is a vital, paradoxically life-affirming splatter film with a stong eye for absurdist detail. It's high school with Uzis and exploding neckbraces.

It's probably best to start with the facts, address the rumors. Yes, it's about 44 young Japanese high schoolers, placed on a remote island and forced to hunt each other until only one is left alive. Yes, it's violent and very bloody. Yes, we do see each death, either in action or the graphic aftermath. So, again, yes, it's an exploitation picture. If many censors and Garden Party Societies had their way, this would be all you would be allowed to know - the thought being, reduce the film to a series of unappetizing descriptive sentences, lock it up tight, let it fade away into the grubby world of urban myth, and have another cocktail.

And so, for those of you who know that when it comes to film, facts mean little in terms of a film's quality and importance: yes, it's brilliant. Scratch beyond the reactionary bluster of shortsighted critics and censors who cannot comprehend that film is not merely a series of individual components (premise, story, soundtrack, direction etc) thrown together to entice innocent youngsters into parting with their money in return for having their souls corrupted (whatever happened to the concept of thought-provoking, controversial films for adults?), and you'll find no shortage of praise, albeit much of it still filtered through the reservations generated by the premise. But when an exploitation film can make salient points about the perils of high school life, be a satire of Japan's cut-throat business world and fashion an effective eulogy for innocence lost and dreams unrealized, reservations be damned. You can begin to believe in the power of cinema again. It truly can do anything.

The first 15 minutes are unsettling; it's the period where you fear the worst. Not in terms of the characters, who are all still pretty faceless at this point (and a number of them inevitably remain so), but in terms of the film's ambition - modern parable or vile trash? The set-up is quick and efficient – bombastic titles give us a quick run down of the sequence of events in an alternative universe version of Japan that lead to the passing of the BR Educational Reform Act, from which the annual Battle Royale is legislated. In a matter of minutes, we are on the island, with the totally disorientated children in a hall, who flock together like a shoal of frightened fish when challenged. And the audience waits to, holding its breath, waiting to see where the film is going to go – it’s a cheap way to generate tension, but it works effectively. They, and we, are greeted with the entrance of a former teacher, played with a weary sense of bitterness and not a little humor by Japanese kingpin actor-director Takeshi Kitano, who runs them through the simple rules: each student gets a bag with food, water and a random weapon, and then they have three days to produce a winner, and if after three days there is no winner, the electronically rigged collars they wear around their necks will explode.

This introductory coda is well-shot, nicely handled, and dripping with menace and tension, and the choreography of the 44 students perfectly timed – but it doesn’t really allay our fears, all it does is guarantee that the film will be at least well-made trash. It’s only after the students tearfully run out of the door one by one, and we see their terror as they say goodbye to friends who are soon to become enemies, that the true nature of the film starts to emerge. As we follow the kids, we are presented with a series of small flashbacks to the tranquility of high school life, which begin to infuse the film with a desolate sense of hopes shattered, and the characters suddenly become truly human, not merely cannon fodder. The film wisely cements the sheer horror of the situation within the teen world – thus the dialogue is guileless and unsophisticated, the acting wide-eyed and broad. But the film itself uses this to its advantage. Witness a girl still unable to profess her love for the object of a long-time crush, even as she is bleeding to death in his arms. “Can I tell you something?” she asks. “You look really cool”

It’s the high school experience wrapped in microcosm - strip away the controversy and you’re left with cliques and outcasts; friendships shattered over petty disagreements and misunderstandings; unrequited love; suicide and rivalries. But in the real world, high school is something we can eventually leave behind, as we pursue our goals and encounter similar problems in different contexts. Here, there is no such future for the kids, and it renders their adolescent dreaming inconsequential. And what is more melancholy than the thought of never being able to even dream again? Throughout it all, director Kinji Fukasaku runs a layer of classical music over the action, and rather than being a cynical stunt, it strengthens the material, gives the vignettes the type of melodramatic energy that high school students (and many adults besides) subscribe to.

Fukasaku, who over the course of his career directed over 60 films, including the Japanese portions of Tora! Tora! Tora! and films with such self-explanatory titles as Cops vs Thugs, Graveyard of Honor, and Sure Fire Death 4, has developed an ability to recognize the natural limits of a scene, flirt with them but never break them. Nothing in Battle Royale slides into gratuitous dismemberment porn; it’s all hard-edged violence used to counterpoint to the dazed innocence – it’s your first day of real work out of college, with Uzi’s and razor-sharp knives. Fukusaku’s work in keeping the film on the rails, and building a snowballing sense of despair and emotional loss, is a directorial masterwork, a fitting swansong to a long, eclectic career. He got to live a full life, do what he loved doing, and he is able to reflect that back to the subjects of this film who see a similar future dissolve before there eyes in scenes of carnage. The film is marked therefore with an indelible, intensely sympathetic touch.

Defender, or champions, of the film find themselves in a difficult position. Battle Royale positions itself on such a knife's edge, a balancing act wondrous to behold, that if anyone actually saw it and then dismissed it as irredeemable, worthless trash, it's hard to argue the point. The deaths of teenagers, graphic or no, should never be anything less than unsettling and horrible, and if someone is unable to see beyond this, then it’s unfortunate that they missed everything else the film had to offer, but it's difficult to begrudge them their opinion. It's only if they attempt to stop others from seeing it and making up their own minds, confusing the medium with the message and placing their moral compass as society's baseline, well, that's when I'll enter the fray. The fact of the matter is, Battle Royale is a triumph, and should be made available to any adult who wants to see it. It's a sad indictment of reactionary censorship that they can't - and it makes the world of cinema that little bit duller. It seems that too many people are willing to accept the old argument that if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck……….well, Kinji Fukasaku would like to teach you all about swans.

Just watch the film. Make up your mind afterwards.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 01/31/05 21:20:20
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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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