Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Cast: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Takeshi Kitano, Chiaki Kuriyama
Synopsis: A Japanese cult classic, this film covers similar territory to the upcoming film adaptation of The Hunger Games. In a society where adolescent delinquency is rising at an alarming rate, an Act of Parliament is passed requiring certain classes within high-schools to be transported to a deserted island and fight each other to the death. If there is not only one sole survivor at the expiration of a three-day period, all remaining students will be eliminated.
Anyone that is familiar with this title may have seen it come up when I noted it was now for sale at Gametraders Blacktown. Indeed, there is little coincidence that these days my addiction to that store often gives me inspiration of things to subsequently review each week. Being a fan of film before anything else, I was familiar with the reputation held by this film, and was quite excited to finally get the chance to see it for myself.
There was nothing unexpected in this film, as one can believe based on the synopsis above. Also, given the passage of time (yes, even after only 12 years), the special effects, especially with blood splatter are not always very convincing. Yet, that is all the negative comment that I have to make for the entire film. It was filled with some very interesting characters, some of them with rich story arcs. Using this extreme situation, there was a large focus on how different personality types would react. There are those whose rebellious nature is self-destructive, those who opted to hide out until the end of the period, knowing they will likely die, but perhaps hoping that everyone else will kill each other while they remain hidden. Then there are those of course that take the steps that they have to such that they can survive, yet struggle to maintain their humanity in the process.
Following each of these individual threads is perhaps the source of the true entertainment value of the film. The violence is in itself quite exciting, even if it does not always convince. These mis-steps, however, I should note are rare, and there are some fantastic and convincing explosions and particularly violent kills. The audience however, can see a lot to recognise of themselves in these characters in an extreme situation, and do make one question what they would do in the same situation. Even those that form outwardly stable protective groups can descend into paranoia and doubt, and responses to situations presented may indeed have someone respond differently than they would in less drastic circumstances.
Cult Japanese films do this type of thing very well. They can be films that the drawcard is the pure level of violence, and there are certainly some Japanese films that leave it like that. Then there are films from people who grew up with the magic of Kurosawa, and know the full extent to which the film in a camera can be used. Battle Royale sits somewhere in between. It definitely exceeds a film that exists for the sake of violence, and though it does not reach the heights of a Kurosawa film, it nonetheless conveys its message both clearly and engagingly.
4 stars out of 5