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6 reviews, 170 user ratings

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Battle Royale
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by Andrew Howe

"A violent, confronting rollercoaster ride"
4 stars

Thundering out of Japan with the momentum of a runaway bullet train, Battle Royale is a unique action flick that roars onto the screen with the subtlety of a shotgun blast to the head. Set in a future in which Japanese adolescents are spiralling out of control, the authorities make an example of a 9th grade high school class by spiriting them away to an uninhabited island to participate in the contest of the title. The rules are simple - 42 students are provided with basic supplies and weapons ranging from machine guns to dustbin lids, and are invited to deep-six their classmates over a 3 day period. The last man (or woman) standing is deemed fit to rejoin society, while the rest earn a one-way ticket to the great beyond.

The premise is enough to have action fans slavering in anticipation, but it's the kind of gloriously twisted concept that invariably fails in the execution. Thankfully it was not to be - working off a novel by Koushun Takami, director Kinji Fukasaku makes good on his promises, and the result is a day-trip to Hell that is destined to be a talking point for years to come.

The film could have amounted to little more than an exercise in gratuitous violence, but its two hour running time provides sufficient space for the characters to rise above the level of mere cannon fodder. We are invited to throw our support behind three contestants - Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara), Noriko (Aki Maeda) and Kawada (Taro Yamamoto) - allowing us to gain an investment in the game's outcome. Kawada, in particular, is a rather likeable soul, cut from the action-hero cloth we know and love, and Yamamoto stands out from the crowd with his portrayal of a man who returns to the fray for reasons which are either hopelessly romantic or utterly ridiculous, depending on your point of view.

Ranged against our heroes are 39 other combatants, who exhibit the diverse personalities you would expect to find amongst the denizens of your local classroom. Some kill themselves rather than join the game, others plot revenge against the adults who have forced them to participate, while the rest just do the best they can. Alliances are formed and broken, old scores are settled, snivelling cowards and unsung heroes emerge from the woodwork, and regular flashbacks preclude us from viewing the students as faceless entities. The script even allows a couple of villains to rise from the slime, opening the way for acts of vengeance that almost had me cheering out loud, and it is this wide-ranging mix of personalities, combined with a well-paced script which is a case study in the art of tension-building, that is central to the film's success.

I can't vouch for the accuracy of the English translation, but the dialogue borders on the banal - I lost track of the number of times someone pledged undying love with their dying breath, and the sight of a tough-as-nails female meditating upon the "coolness" of her friend as she expires from multiple bullet wounds had the audience in stitches. However, many films invest adolescents with an emotional maturity beyond their years, a conceit that Battle Royale studiously avoids. Infatuation, petty rivalries and unshakeable romanticism are common features of schoolyard life, so you could just as easily praise the script for its accurate portrayal of youthful concerns and worldviews.

The film's graphic violence has sparked a major controversy in Japan, a reaction which is destined to be repeated when it secures an international release. It's even nastier than the press reports would have you believe, and features (among other things) a young girl stumbling to her doom with a crossbow quarrel through her neck, a rather unstable individual who winds up wearing a hand-axe for a hat, and a would-be rapist whose ardour is cooled by repeated stab wounds to the privates. It's no worse than the likes of Commando, but what sets the film apart from other blood-drenched offerings is that not only do the girls cop it as badly as the boys (action films generally reserve the most conspicuous trauma for the male characters), they are, undeniably, girls and boys. Hollywood likes to pass off 26 year-old actors as school-age students, but the actors in Battle Royale actually look like adolescents, and this makes the carnage all the more disturbing.

Since it's obvious that we're not meant to be taking it too seriously the film shrugs off charges of reprehensible exploitation, but you'd certainly never get away with it in a Western release. The shocking violence is nothing more than the price of Fukasaku sticking to his guns, and for refusing to be constrained by traditional concepts of what you can and can't do in a motion picture he deserves some measure of respect.

Battle Royale is a one-of-a-kind release - I've never seen anything like it, and its high production values, savvy script and gut-wrenching action sequences will see you from the cinema in a state of breathless disbelief. In a genre that has long been the domain of tired retreads it's a breath of choking, corrosive air, and if you take it with a grain of salt you'll find much of interest within.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=5391&reviewer=193
originally posted: 06/13/01 22:14:34
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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
12/19/12 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
12/22/09 Jeff Mind-blowing film! 5 stars
9/07/09 Lewis This actually is the best feature-length film ever. No joke. 5 stars
2/16/09 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
5/06/08 Dimitri I really, really loved this movie, a bit violent but strong. 5 stars
11/21/07 Luke FUCKING AMAZING! 5 stars
7/23/07 AnthonyBenigno Despite the manga being superior, i love the different view the movie puts on the story! 5 stars
2/19/07 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
12/26/06 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
11/27/06 Bella amazing book, kick ass film, ram the point home - this is hardcore 5 stars
8/09/06 melivorous Masanabu Ando, Chiaki Kiriyama, Beat Takashi!! what more could you ask for! 5 stars
7/12/06 sayori hayatımda en güzel filmdir. mesala chiaki kuriyama, kou shibasaki ve aki maeda... 4 stars
5/22/06 Agent Sands One of the great gorefests. Takeshi, as always, delivers with a wryly hilarious performance 5 stars
12/02/05 Jennifer S. This was just an excellent movie, start to finish. 5 stars
11/28/05 tr3svirus amazing movie 5 stars
10/15/05 Anus ABIGAIL CAN SUCK MY COCK ANYDAY! 5 stars
8/30/05 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
1/28/05 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
1/07/05 Pent I agree with shogo kawada 5 stars
12/07/04 Shogo-Kawada You know this is also a real game in east asia.. 4 stars
12/01/04 Al Guy More pathos than I would have thought. Great movie. 5 stars
11/27/04 Joe One more reason why hollywood sucks 5 stars
11/09/04 Alaric L A film about violence in human nature 4 stars
10/21/04 sofia the most mazing film i have ever seen ( no joke) 5 stars
8/10/04 Lee Extremely nice. I loved this movie!!!! R.I.P.Kinji Fukasaku 5 stars
8/09/04 kyotomatt Decent, but not as good as the book. Takeshi ruined the ending. 3 stars
8/05/04 tohru senno its the best war movie ever 5 stars
8/02/04 SpuD I actually found the film quite humourous :) We have it on DVD here too! Yey ^^ 5 stars
7/24/04 Patrick Puhl If you were appalled, you missed the point 5 stars
7/06/04 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
6/02/04 Mr Mayagi Must see movie Daniel-san. 5 stars
6/02/04 VOS Outrageously riveting and compelling. It's a must see! 5 stars
6/02/04 Dave This film remains with you long after you have watched it. A disturbing film. QUITE AMAZING 5 stars
5/17/04 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
3/31/04 Noriko Awesome 5 stars
3/15/04 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
1/28/04 Meghan Carr An Awesome, thought provoking movie! 5 stars
1/22/04 JC Wow! I expected the movie to be good but not THAT good. Fantastic film. www.film-view.tk 5 stars
1/14/04 Colleen This movie was brilliant. I'm about done with the book right now, which might be better. =b 5 stars
1/04/04 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
12/21/03 jamie one of the best movies out there. 5 stars
12/14/03 delia johnson the movie fell short, but the concept is fucking awesome. 4 stars
11/13/03 Igor Insane violence + good story = kick ass movie. 5 stars
11/03/03 ThuG_uNit Very good Movie 5 stars
10/17/03 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
10/14/03 alsiha Best movie ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/14/03 AVG AZN BOI c'mon ppl, hoo dun lik ta c a movie wit kyute jap skool gurlz killin dere best friendz? 5 stars
10/04/03 john holdsworth one of the best films ever!!! 5 stars
9/22/03 aya wonderful 5 stars
9/06/03 mark excellent movie 5 stars
8/10/03 Richard Fitzmaurice This film is the best i have seen in a very long time! 5 stars
8/03/03 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
7/11/03 Dreamwalker Fantastic film, great characterization. Shame that it's bound to be badly remade in the U.S 5 stars
7/01/03 jih absolutely fucking amazing the guys who say total crap are retards with not friends. 5 stars
6/23/03 Pete B beautiful film! You see this remade for the American market! 5 stars
6/20/03 Kevin Fuld Awesome Movie! 5 stars
6/20/03 Kay My god.... a fascinating look at a society near you! 5 stars
6/13/03 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
6/11/03 WakeAngel MORE MORE MORE 5 stars
6/11/03 jessie it was a mad and sad movie 5 stars
6/10/03 Rob i am a fan of asian films anyway but this was the best 5 stars
6/08/03 Ronald Blam this piece of crap!! 1 stars
6/07/03 Ben Barr I thought it was a great movie. I first heard about it in Pulp magazine. 5 stars
6/05/03 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
6/03/03 AJ good movie. . . it really makes you think 4 stars
5/27/03 Robbie Awful!! I give this movie 0% 1 stars
5/26/03 Temple This is by far one of the best films ever made! 5 stars
5/23/03 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
5/22/03 johnathan lamplough this movie is the coolest ive seen in ages and ive seen reloaded! 5 stars
5/21/03 Genshu Makota Still a great piece of Japanese Cinematography. Should definitely be U.S bound! 5 stars
5/19/03 Williefish hilarious! 5 stars
5/19/03 ginger Awsome 5 stars
5/19/03 JEff very unique movie...i loved it 5 stars
5/05/03 Frank This film is amazing. I couldn't believe what I had saw when it was finally over. 5 stars
4/20/03 Adam Rosenberg This movie has made it onto my top 75 i give it 5 stars 5 stars
4/17/03 JAZY J 2003 I KNOW I WAS THERE! 5 stars
4/11/03 William Stewart The Kubrik of Japan, very impressive. 5 stars
4/07/03 Dave Non-stop ultra violence with a wicked sense of humour. Now that's entertainment. 5 stars
4/06/03 Wayne A dark and thrilling fairy tale of modern violence 5 stars
3/30/03 Kyle I'm at a loss for words. Incredible. 5 stars
2/26/03 NOS Watched it pressing the fast forward button of my remote 2 stars
2/14/03 Steve Great 5 stars
2/03/03 Mr Temple It's the dogs bollocks!!! 5 stars
1/11/03 Amanda Norcross Watch out for those transfer students!! 5 stars
1/08/03 Safia One of the best Japanese movies I've seen 5 stars
11/23/02 DRiON MITSUKO KICK'S ASS!!! 5 stars
11/11/02 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
9/28/02 HRaven now..I want the DVD... Worth the bill ! 5 stars
9/26/02 Azhrarn Who's your daddy bitch? 5 stars
9/17/02 DPop Amazing and Thought Provoking 5 stars
9/11/02 Vivek Bansal Shocking, controversial, reminds me of middle school. 5 stars
9/09/02 Reiko twisted beyond words.. I loved it... 5 stars
9/03/02 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 risk....so sad 5 stars
7/29/02 edward h. Really disturbing film - powerful. 5 stars
7/25/02 Joe Blow aWESOME! 5 stars
7/16/02 Chronobyte Very Entertaining 5 stars
4/14/02 DNA quite enjoyable 5 stars
4/13/02 Krash i personally think that the law should be passed for real 5 stars
3/26/02 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
3/18/02 JoB Kick ass movie!!! 5 stars
3/12/02 cARa perty boring 1 stars
3/12/02 Roy O' Bannon I love it!!!!! Best Movie for Years 5 stars
3/09/02 Sugimura-sama It's violent movie!!I love it!! 5 stars
2/17/02 Andrew Carden Interesting Movie...Good Direction and Screenplay. 4 stars
2/16/02 atom The film is a bloody master peice 5 stars
2/14/02 Buddy Disturbing, ultra-violent...beautifully filmed & acted. 5 stars
2/07/02 Hanna So totally overwhealming...I will have to leave a few days before my next viewing... 5 stars
2/01/02 Death Blackdekker frightening, thought-provoking, exciting and well directed 5 stars
1/30/02 Nosty Violent and shocking, unforgettable! 5 stars
1/26/02 Jonny Mindless brutality coupled with thought-provoking drama 5 stars
1/09/02 DIN Shockingly GOOD!No.1 on my list of EXCELLENT movies........EVER :) 5 stars
12/10/01 Kevin Disturbing but great movie. 5 stars
12/06/01 Zed Totally intriguing. 5 stars
12/01/01 AK Horribly grotesque, yet superb story, most disturbing movie I´ve ever seen. 5 stars
11/29/01 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
11/20/01 Claire Thornley This movie blew me away!! Look beyond the press and find one of the best films of the year 5 stars
11/18/01 KELLY MORRIS Not bad kind of Series 7 meets Cherry falls quite wierd 4 stars
11/07/01 Gopal Natarajan Brutal and disturbing, but darkly funny and poignant. 4 stars
10/28/01 jot027 fuckin' outstanding 5 stars
10/23/01 Ed (www.edshawk.com) Very violent but still a great film. 5 stars
10/21/01 Quentin Stories for the soul...........DISTURBING! 5 stars
10/13/01 Jason Columbine could have been avoided if students had an outlet like this 5 stars
10/09/01 John Kirriemuir Disturbing, compulsive, and confrontational - what would you do? 5 stars
9/28/01 Nyanko-chan Disturbing as all fuck, hell yeah, but just the premise is thoughtprovoking! 5 stars
9/27/01 HyperAkuma what can i say, its a japanese movie. truly twisted...in an interesting way, awesome movie. 5 stars
9/15/01 ym quite nice 4 stars
9/12/01 Ian Davies Quite simply, the best film of the year. 5 stars
8/28/01 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
8/21/01 Key I don't care how you do it, but you have to get your hands on this movie! 5 stars
8/19/01 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
8/15/01 AstroKender all I can say is: Whoa...Intense. 3 stars
8/12/01 talent14 A familiar, but COMPLETELY absorbing film. 4 stars
8/10/01 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
8/05/01 Really Stunned person. SHOCKINGLY GOOD. Watch it. Then think. 5 stars
8/05/01 T Nguyen A powerful fable. Life is that sad? 5 stars
7/10/01 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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