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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"A modern classic about the folly of violence."
5 stars

Children killing children: that's the main reason that the superlative "Battle Royale" hasn't yet gotten an official American release, and probably won't anytime soon.

It's the conceit of the movie, and of Koushun Takami's rather thick (616 pages in the translated version released in 2003) novel of the same name, that the Japanese economy is on the skids and the government has lost all control over juvenile delinquency. Enter the BR Act, which stipulates that a class of ninth-graders will be selected by random lottery to participate in a cruel "survival of the fittest" contest on a remote island. Each student is assigned a knapsack containing basic supplies as well as a weapon stuffed in there at random (you might get an Uzi, or you might get a relatively benign pair of binoculars). The kids are expected to kill each other off until only one "winner" is left.

The opening twenty minutes of Battle Royale, which explain all this and much more, have a malevolent brilliance; the remainder of the film is merely kick-ass. But don't mistake it for an amoral shoot-em-up. Veteran director Kinji Fukasaku, who died early in 2003 while working on the sequel, was not interested in blood and guts for their own cathartic sake. The heroes of the film, after all, are two peaceful kids -- Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (Aki Maeda) -- who just want to survive from hour to hour without having to kill anyone. The villains, aside from the impersonal government feeding its youth into the meat grinder, are the natural-born killers -- kids like the punky Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando), who joined up "for fun," and the spiteful bitch Mitsuko (Kou Shibasaki), who racks up the most kills of any of the girls. It's hard to decide who's scarier; Fukasaku, like Takashi Miike in Audition, knew that the pretty smile of a Japanese girl, in the context of sadism, can look like the ugliest thing you've ever seen.

Part of the reason that an American remake of the movie would be folly is that there's really no American equivalent to Takeshi "Beat" Kitano. A wildly popular actor/director in his own right, Kitano shows up here as a teacher named (ha) Kitano, who has been ignored and mocked (not to mention knifed) by his students too often. Now he works for the BR program, smiling ever so slightly as he tells the unfortunate chosen class what's what. Enjoying his power over his now-attentive students, he casually kills two of them. Is he evil? Well, he develops shadings as the movie goes on. Repeat viewings may reveal the teacher as a no-nonsense drill instructor trying to instill in his students the life-and-death stakes of this game, for their own good. I can't see anyone other than Kitano -- his face partially immobilized by a real-life car accident -- in the role; our nearest match might be Charles Bronson in his '70s prime, or perhaps Lee Marvin.

Battle Royale is high entertainment in its own way. The training video shown to the class, hosted by a chipper Yûko Miyamura (who chirps things like "Listen to fight well and with gusto!"), is beloved by anyone who's seen the film; it's a vintage piece of sick comedy. The soundtrack, made up largely of booming classical music, gives an epic, Kubrickian scale to the proceedings. When the two grinning killers Kiriyama and Mitsuko meet at last, the clash has weight and force; so does a forest encounter between jogger Chigusa (Chiaki Kuriyama) and a hapless boy unlucky enough to nurture an unrequited crush on her. Many of the killings have their roots in hysteria or previous enmity (the girls turn on each other with frightening speed). Back at BR headquarters, Kitano tracks it all impassively, perhaps hoping that this will be the year that one or more of the students beat the program.

There's a reversal or two at the climax, involving a mysterious and more experienced older boy, Kawada (Taro Yamamoto), who takes the pacifistic Shuya and Noriko under his wing -- either out of pity or because they remind him of himself in earlier days. Other alliances are formed, too, between a group of girls in a lighthouse whose civility crashes and burns when paranoia enters the picture, or a trio of boys who hack the system and have plans to bomb the headquarters -- we spend a fair amount of time watching their progress before they run into the Uzi-packing Kiriyama. Fukasaku is saying that in war, some bonds will come apart while others hold fast; it's probably no coincidence that the bond that endures is the one forged in the hope of peace, not out of convenience or collective conniving.

"Battle Royale" is a violent film that stands against violence, and maybe that's the real reason for its controversy. Violent movies that just use brutality as punctuation don't threaten the order of things; violent movies that give us to ponder the costs of man's inhumanity to man will always be inconvenient.

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originally posted: 12/26/06 13:26:06
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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 hayatımda 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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