With the Japanese currently leading the way in thought-provoking cinematic violence its only fitting that Kenta Fukasakus Battle Royale
is being touted as A Clockwork Orange
for the 21st century. Based on the novel by Koshun Takami, the film opens with a series of fleeting images of unruly Japanese schoolkids, whose bad behaviour provides a justification for the "punishments" which will ensue. To be honest, anyone who has grown up with Grange Hill
will view these aggressive teenagers acts as pretty moderate, but in the context of Japanese culture, their lack of respect is a challenge to the traditional values of respecting your elders. Once the prequel has been dispensed with the classmates are drugged and awaken on an island where they find they have been fitted with dog collars that monitor their every move. Instructed by their old teacher ("Beat" Takeshi) with the aid of an upbeat MTV-style video, they are told of their fate: after an impartial Lottery they have been chosen to fight each other in a three-day, no-rules contest, the "Battle Royale". Their only chance of survival in the "Battle" is through the death of all their classmates. Some pupils embrace their mission with zeal, while others simply give up or try to become peacemakers and revolutionaries. However, the ultimate drive for survival comes from the desire to protect the one you love.
The film looks like a war-flick on occasions, with intense Apocalypse Now-style imagery (check out the classical score blasted over the tannoys with sweeping shots of helicopters). Yet, Battle Royale works on many different levels, highlighting the authorities desperation to enforce law and order and the alienation caused by the generation gap. But whether you view the film as an important social commentary or simply enjoy the adrenalin-fuelled violence, this is set to become cult viewing for the computer game generation and beyond.
On the DVD: Battle Royale has been re-released in this new and improved version. Now offered in progressive scan, utilising NTSC technology which has enhanced the picture quality. Please be aware though that not all DVD players are compatible, if unsure your best to opt for the first release.--Nikki Disney
An extraordinary futuristic nightmare --Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
A magnificent cult object --Time Out
A battle worth engaging in --Neo Mag