On DVD/Blu-ray – Review: Battle Royale (2000)
by NIR SHALEV
This is a beast of a movie. Koshun Takami’s novel was first adapted into a manga (Japanese comics) and then made into this feature-length film. Battle Royale tells the story of what happens when adults in Japan decide to strike back against rebellious youths.
The film is set in Japan at a future time in which the adult population is fed up with youths disrespecting them. The government draws a school name and class at random, via imperial lottery and the students from the chosen class are outfitted with explosive collars. An instructional video is shown to the students, supervised by Kitano-sensei (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano) and the students are informed that they will be dropped off on an island, equipped with random weapons, and only one student will come out alive. The Battle Royale is also an effective albeit cruel form of population control.
What the audience is then subjected to is a presentation of the various school cliques joined together on a distant island in order to survive, only to eventually backstab one another. The veneer of civilization crumbles as per expectation, because when faced with great adversity, the average student is far more of a coward than they thought they were and many of the students are murdered mercilessly because they are nothing more than kids. It’s a savage film that’s also a biting social commentary and it’s simultaneously disturbing and exhilarating.
It’s also a very bloody and gory film that’s somewhat hard to watch because the performances of the students are quasi-realistic. The cast consists of actual teenagers and they don’t ham up the theatrics beyond believability. They scream in pain when shot, clubbed, or stabbed and the fear in their eyes, for the most part, looks genuine.
Battle Royale became an international instant cult classic upon initial theatrical release and further proved that Japan can sometimes be a tad crazy. I can only hope that those living outside of Asia and who are experiencing the film for the first time don’t think that Japan has actually concocted a real life Battle Royale and specifically for the aforementioned reason. There was also a sequel made in 2003 but it lacked all of the importance that the original contained and is a terrible film on its own.
I recommend this film not only because it needs to be seen but because “The Hunger Games” movie sounds remarkably similar to Battle Royale. I know that they’re unrelated films and that they exist in two completely different universes, but one can’t help but notice the similarities. The one striking difference is that The Hunger Games is intended for virtually all ages while Battle Royale is intended for adult viewers only. I can’t stress enough how bloody and violent the film is and the more disturbing that one finds it the more the film gets it point across. Rent it or buy it; it’s a cult classic for a reason.
Battle Royale is on DVD and Blu-ray and the Blu-ray HD video transfer’s really good. There’s also really good HD audio that supports 7.1 surround. However, here’s the dilemma: the DVD/Blu-ray of the standalone film doesn’t contain any special features while the four-disc “Complete Collection” edition has a slew of them, including the sequel. So, true fans of Battle Royale would be advised to purchase the box set version.
New releases this week: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, War Horse, We Bought a Zoo