Battle Royale (2000)


Battle Royale (2000)

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto

Students are sent to a desert island to duel to the death in a cruel game that pushes them to their physical and mental limits.

A child murder game is a hard premise to sell, but with the success of The Hunger Games, this movie enjoyed a little bump in popularity. (No, Suzanne Collins didn't steal the idea. I believe her when she says she was completely unaware of this story.) Here's the thing, though. One of the key things about The Hunger Games' depiction of child murder is that it relies on shaky cam and other tricks to minimize the effect, while Battle Royale is completely unflinching. In fact, it's so over the top that it becomes more darkly comedic than horrific. If you're at all familiar with Japanese school culture, you'll be able to get the satire that's so central to the story. On that note, let me say that Beat Takeshi (i.e. Takeshi Kitano) is simply brilliant as Kitano-sensei. He's the best thing about the movie. I honestly didn't like the main duo that much, but they're offset by some really colorful members of the cast like the psychotic Kiriyama, the manipulative Mitsuko and the steel-nerved Chigusa. With forty-two students in the pool of victims, characterization is shallow for most, but those that do get more screentime than their immediate death tend to leave some impression. It takes a particular mindset to enjoy this movie, but if you have it, this is well worth seeing.

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