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Battle Royale Review
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Battle Royale (directed by Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)

Battle Royale is a movie that is neither well constructed nor accomplishes anything it really sets out to do.  This is a film that wants to be many things; Lord of the Flies for the late millenium, a dark satire on Japan's youth not meeting expectations, an ultraviolent action/horror film.  There are moments scattered throughout the film that work for me as a viewer, the two most memorable being the instructional video at the beginning and the scene in the lighthouse where the girls turn on each other in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, it just never coalesces into a satisfying whole or even succeeding on the terms it sets out for here.  

There are two big problems with this film.  The first problem seems to be that this world where teeangers are forced to kill each other doesn't seem well constructed.  There doesn't seem to be a purpose beyond the rather flimsy one given at the beginning that Japan's youth have become unruly.  This explanation would work but we don't see anything of this outside world except for a few shots at the beginning where a student stabs a teacher in the leg.  The movie has a real disconnect with telling us about an experience but not really showing a logical or emotional connection to the actions going on in the story. The students ex-teacher Kitano shows up but is he there for revenge against students or just there so that we have an adult figure the students recognize? Why does the military care if this goes well or blows up in their faces?  Does it seem realistic that none of the students from the main class have heard of the BR Act or let alone not know about Battle Royale? If this world is so bad and so many of these students are delinquents, what are they fighting for here? None of this world seems to work on any level.  

The other issue, there's no tension in this film whatsoever.  It's supposed to be a horror movie of some sort.  The scene where Kitano kills two students right off the bat is effective because this is a teacher who has long stopped caring about his charges. After that though, the murder starts happening left and right.  There's no tension, no hesitation on will these students kill or won't they.  Every student seems to just kill each other just to survive despite a real lack of purpose.  I have nothing against ultraviolence but the violence here isn't used creatively or interesting.  It just gets boring after the 20th student gets killed for no reason.  By the end of the film, you don't really root for anyone to survive just for this story to end.


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