This is not your mother’s Lord of the Flies!
In a not-so-distant future, teenagers have gotten so out of control and show such a horrible lack of respect for their elders that the Japanese government has adopted a radical survival game as punishment–Battle Royale. The film follows one ninth grade class as they’re abducted from a class field trip to be the next slate of competitors.
The movie, like the game, is brutal and unrelenting. Trapped on a remote island and held prisoner by the dog collar monitoring system around their necks, these teens, along with two mysterious outsiders, are ordered to kill or be killed, until just one of them remains. Each is given a duffel bag of supplies which includes a randomly selected weapon: gun, automatic bow-and-arrow, pot lid–it’s all in the luck of the draw. If after three days, more than one teen remains, their collars will detonate–game over.
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku, this cross between the TV show Survivor and Kill Bill has become something of a cult hit both in Japan and the US. The film wastes no time getting into the game and moves along at a rapid pace. A countdown of survivors, updated with each new death, heightens the tension. Teenage love, “best friends 4-ever,” and high school cliques all come into play. Takeshi Kitano (Zatoichi) appears as the teacher who orchestrates the game.
Battle Royale is definitely not for everyone. Whether you see it as social commentary or as a ruthless, violent video game translated to the screen, it is a breakneck, violent piece of escapism. And with a storyline pitting 15-year-old against 15-year-old to the death, it’s safe to assume there’s little chance for an American remake. Then again… [****]