Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This time it's war - not as good as the first, but it's okay., 5 Nov 2007
This review is from: Battle Royale 2: Requiem [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I expected this film to be a basic retelling of the first film but with a different cast - but I was pleasantly surprised to see that although much of the film felt similar, it was actually very different. Critics of the film will focus on the fact that it still involves school kids with exploding collars around their necks who are put on an Island to kill or be killed, but the fact is that the story which drives the film, is more politically charged than the first.

A terrorist group called `Wild Seven', led by Suya Nanahara (the male survivor of the prequel) has declared war on grown ups. The Battle Royale Act has been re-drafted and a bunch of school kids are put on an island and tasked with killing Nanahara within 72 hours - or be killed themselves.

As with the first film, there is a running count given of fallen students, starting with 40; the group soon dwindles as they come under fire. Instead of killing each other, they are effectively an army platoon.

The opening scenes which show the terrorist attacks in Tokyo at the hands of Wild Seven sees the destruction of several sky-scrapers, reminiscent of the 11th September attacks in the US. The opening is set to a fantastic musical score which doesn't hold up as well during the rest of the film. It isn't too long before we see Riki Takeuchi's over the top performance as the teacher explaining to the students what they must do. The audience cannot help but despise this evil figure as he takes great delight in explaining that the students must choose to be a winner (face almost certain death) or a loser (face a very certain death) - this is demonstrated whilst the pupils are locked in a giant cage and one is exterminated. But as the film develops we see another side to him as we learn about his own loss. Another difference in the sequel is the buddy-system. Each boy is allocated a buddy girl. If one dies then the buddy then dies also (via the explosive neck collars). The same applies if they wander too far form each other.

Takeuchi's performance is very much over acted and takes away from the gravitas of the situation. But it is he who introduces the strong political element of the film...

....The main difference with the first film is the explicit international politics expressed in the film. The teacher starts scribbling the names of countries on a blackboard whilst yelling them out. He then explains that all these countries (including Japan) have something in common - they have all been bombed by the USA in the last 60 years, "8 million dead among 22 nations!". Later on in the film there are constant references to "The other country" threatening to bomb the Island unless they can expunge the terrorists, but it's pretty obvious that these are references to the US.

The film deals with issues such as terrorism, and questions how we think about terrorists - are they wrong? Are we supporting the right side? Should we listen and perhaps join the terrorists? The film has its flaws, such as a plot which seems to meander away from itself too much, not enough emotion and very little character development, and expression a bit too childish (a war on all grown ups). There also seems to be some plot holes; why is Wild Seven on the island? If the Government want them destroyed then surely they can just do it themselves. America is seen as an international super-bully which has destabilised the world by bombing everyone, but then is seen as an ally against Wild Seven - what happened in-between? How can the Islanders get enough power to run a media operation and run the various technology there?

But these questions, and the over acting which sometimes stands out like a sore thumb are often balanced by some of the fantastic scenes in the film, such as the initial landings on the Island - similar to those seen in documentaries and films about the Second World War..

This is one of those films I would give 3.5 stars to, but seeing as I have to choose either 3 or 4, I'll opt for three. A good sprinkling of extras like those issued with the various releases of the first film could tip this to a four.

It isn't very often you come across a film which dares to look at the international political situation from a different angle. A bit more clarity would have earned this another star from me.

Without doubt, the most impressive thing about this film is that it questions the viewer, not just a questioning of good taste as some would argue, but it questions the way we think about involvement of the US and the reaction of so called `terrorist' groups. The teacher argues that "there are only two sides in life, winners and the losers... It's black or white, there's nothing in between" - but that isn't the case, it isn't as easy as that, there are huge grey areas in-between, that that is what the film invites you to consider.
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2.7 out of 5 stars (63 customer reviews)
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