With the Japanese currently leading the way in thought-provoking cinematic violence, it's only fitting that Kinji Fukasaku's 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" that will ensue. 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. Battle Royale
works on many different levels, highlighting the authorities' desperation to enforce law and order and the alienation caused by the generation gap. 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 comes out fighting in a special edition format only a few months after the initial DVD release became cult viewing. But don't get too excited about the new cut of the film, only a few additional scenes have been added and the alternate ending simply offers a series of Requiem sequences. Disc 2 contains a whole heap of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, unfortunately many of these tend to repeat material. The Q&A with the cast (in full costume) and the director is repeated in the Tokyo Film festival. The special effects comparison feature is a case of "spot the difference" the S-FX hardly being in the Star Wars league and the instructional video on how to direct a film proves that the DVD makers have tried to grasp irony and failed. The disc also includes trailers and text filmographies for "Beat" Takeshi and director Kinji Fukasaku along with a written statement by the master of extreme cinema. Lacking in commentary and substance this DVD is redeemed by a superior sound and visual print to its predecessors. -Nikki Disney
The most controversial Japanese film of the millennium returns in a Special Edition version, featuring more violence, more characterization and an alternate ending that sheds fresh light on the events of the film. Comes in Special Edition tin packaging.