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Battle Royale




Battle Royale
The Masked Reviewer

This Japanese film (Batoru Rowaiaru) is not widely available in the United States.  Right now, the best bet to find this film is through eBay.  It shouldn't be too long before you can find it at your local Blockbuster, though, because this is quite a movie.

It's based on a book by Koushun Takami, who as it turns out is also Japanese.  The film was directed by Kinji Fukusaku, who has been directing for 50 years.  It may surprise some people to learn that he, too, is Japanese. 

What is Battle Royale?  It's a sci-fi-ish, actiony, horrorrific drama with kids.   Saying anymore might take away from the surprise of the film, but if you like suspenseful action films which inject some humanity, you should check it out.  If you appreciate interesting cult hits of other cultures, you'll want a copy for yourself.  If you like Japanese schoolgirl uniforms, this is a must-have. 

People who aren't big on violence might want to steer clear, as it is royally bloody.  If you can't stand subtitles, it won't be for you.  There's a lot of talking since it isn't really an action film, but some people don't like to read and watch at the same time.  "Is it a book, or a movie?  Make up your mind!"

This will certainly spawn an American remake in the next couple of years, based on the huge success its had in Japan.  Hopefully whatever studio tackles the project will go to the Battle Royale novel (which was just released in English) as well as the movie, because the book is even richer than the film. 

The acting, almost entirely featuring children, is superb.  They deal with many interesting emotional situations and most of the characters (more than 40) are very well developed.  Nothing seems corny or overplayed.  And, for such a violent film, there is a sweetness and gentleness that remains throughout.

Japanese films can often seem totally weird or hokey to American audiences.  This film does feature a few dream sequences that are slightly confusing, but everything does make sense.  Especially on DVD, when you can rewind and watch scenes again. 

Overall, it features a great story, excellent acting and character interaction, solid pacing, and serviceable special effects.

If that's enough information for you, skip to the end of this review.  If you need a bit of information on the film, keep reading.  The Masked Reviewer will give you a brief overview of what the film is about.

Battle Royale is one part The Running Man, one part 10 Little Indians, a little bit of Survivor, and a dash of Lord of the Flies.  In a not-too-distant future, the government sends a class of forty students to a deserted island.  There, they are forced to fight to the death until only one remains.  The cliques from school foster suspicions and help the kids form alliances.  They have to deal with typical adolescent  problems, too, while fighting for their lives. 

DVD Extra Features: There are many extras, which are unfortunately in Japanese with only Korean subtitles. 

Expectation from the Title: A movie about the fighting within the fast-food industry.  "You know what they call a Big Mac in France?  A Royale with cheese..." 

Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):  The school children all look very nice in their uniforms.

The Pros: Great acting, suspenseful, exciting, intriguing.  Interesting issues raised and dealt with in a believable way.

The Cons: Extras are in Japanese with Korean subtitles.  The English subtitles could have used some proofreading.

This site was last updated 09/22/04

Copyright 2003, Michael D. Lynn