Movie of the Day – Battle Royale

Oh how I wish that the Hunger Games movie would be like this, but it won’t cause they don’t have motherfucking Takeshi Kitano in it.  Battle Royale, not just a phrase that is used to describe the annual wrestling event hosted by WWE, but a controversial film upon its release and a flat out, chaotic film.  Battle Royale is one of those films that is talked about a lot in the cinephile circles, especially those otaku fans out there that enjoy the Japanese culture and film.  What makes this a memorable film and one for the ages I would say, is the wanton violence and death that is being portrayed at the hands of high school kids.  No wonder this movie never got a release in the states and on top of that, is hard to find on dvd here, unless of course you go international with your movie orders.

In the year 2002, Japan’s economy has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, and massive unemployment and inflation have thrown most adults into a state of chaos; the nation’s youth culture responds with unprecedented violence, delinquency, and truancy. Desperate to restore order, the Japanese parliament responds by creating the Millennial Reform School Act, in which groups of junior high students are selected at random, sent to an isolated island, and forced to play a rigorous war game, in which all but one of their number are killed. Kitano (Beat Takeshi) is an embittered school instructor who guides the 44 students of the Zentsuji Middle School’s Class B through the deadly game known as “Battle Royale,” as they struggle to survive against the elements and each other.  ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Battle Royale made a lot of waves when it was released because of the stark subject matter that innovative, legendary director Kinji Fukasaku brought to life.  A dystopian Japan, on the brink of collapse with high unemployment and rebellious, young population that refuses to work and go to school.  In order to reign in societies flaws, a government backed fight to the death is established to truly determine what children are worthy of continuing to live in Japan as a functional member of society.  When the film came out, this subject matter really pushed a lot of buttons, not only because of the gory violence perpetrated by young kids, but the fact that it brought to light some of the current societal issues that Japan deals with.  A young, disenfranchised group of teens with little options, an aging population and no opportunity for growth in their country means that hatred and discourse isn’t that far behind.  It’s a shocking method to say the least that the movie portrays, but when left with little options for control, I wouldn’t say it’s not possible.

I think that a lot of the undertones of the movie is lost on those that watch it, as the main delicacy is the violence that takes place in the movie.  I don’t necessarily find it offensive or enough to make me hate the movie, but rather the violence is more cartoonish and used a means to lessen the overt impact that people will perceive that it has.  Sure the wanton violence that is displayed by young kids and the needless stabbings and shootings is enough to make anyone cringe.  The fact that the movie makes over abundant use of bullet sponge-like kids and ridiculous arterial sprays lessens the impact of the visuals, as overt and gory as it maybe.  I don’t find it offensive in any stretch, but what hits home is that we are watching young kids dismember one another for the right to continue living in Japan.  We you realize this fact, the film has a lot more impact and meaning.  The violence is just the means to get that across, but we typically focus on the violence.

What is interesting, as I probably just demonstrated in a subconscious way, is that the movie is best remember for the violence.  I will admit the visual of watching an innocent kids throat get exploded by an explosive collar sticks with you, but what makes you care is the young cast and directing.  A lot of the young kids in the movie went on to star in the Death Note series, Linda Linda Linda, Izo, Sukiyaki: Western Django and Kill Bill tells you the kind of young talent that was brought in for this movie.  Takeshi Kitano though is the main reason I love this film.  His role is a bit limited, but just watching the way he goes about on screen, killing some of the kids and generally being a badass is why I enjoy the movie.  That and the man is a legendary actor and director in his own right.  You bring all these elements together, the actors and story, place it in the hands of a director that is no stranger to controversy and you have an instant  success in my book.  Kinji Fukasaku is best known for, besides Battle Royale, the WWII film Tora! Tora! Tora! .  What better director to turn the cinematic lens on a culture than Kinji.

I certainly love this film enough to have tracked down copies of it over the course of several years.  It has gone on to spawn a sequel, which absolutey sucks, and a manga series that expands on the Battle Royale program.  It is regarded as one of the top films in existence, either by cult film, horror, or genre aficionados.  It’s a powerful movie to watch.  Seeing kids with little regard for their future and society, being placed in game to see what kid reigns supreme and can be permitted back into society is just outright deranged and intriguing.  What gets me the most is that the BR program is referred to as a “game” many times.  It’s not a program, it’s not some form of rehabilitation, but rather a game for the government to see who is worthy of continuing on with life.  I think that this message gets lost in the movie since the main point is the exploitative nature of violence, rather than the examination of the themes.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

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