July 8, 2012

Filthy Review - Battle Royale

Battle Royale (2000)

Review by Jude Felton

The Japanese movie Battle Royale was originally released in 2000 and is based on the 1999 novel by Koushun Takami. Over the years it has seen a release, whether theatrically or for home entertainment, in most countries worldwide, yet never in the United States. That is all set to change on March 20th 2012, as this controversial movie will get a DVD release, and possibly most interestingly, a Blu-ray release.

The premise of Battle Royale concerns Japan in the near future, where unruly school children rule the roost and the authorities are at a loss of what to do. Taking extreme measures the Government implements the Battle Royale Law, in which each year one 9th Grade school class is randomly picked and taken to a remote island. Upon arriving there the class is informed of their situation and given the lowdown on the Law’s rules. The rules being that they have a set amount of time in which to kill each other until there is only one survivor.

Each child is given some supplies and a random weapon, of which some are far more effective than others, and just so that they do not try to escape, or somehow cheat the system, they also have hi-tech dog collars attached around their necks that have a very effective way of preventing foul play. Overseeing the entire battle, so to speak, is a hardened ex-teacher, Kitano-sensei, played by the prolific Takeshi Kitano.

Battle Royale is controversial for good reason, it doesn’t play the action merely for cheap thrills and shock value as many films do, and instead it lets the action unfold in a very matter-of-fact manner. It is incredibly violent, and some scenes really do pack a punch, and there is a moderate amount of gore, but instead of focusing on the violence the movie deals very effectively on the relationships between the children involved. This is a situation where former friendships are put to the test and uneasy alliances are formed in order to prolong their survival. Battle Royale is just as interested in the emotional effect of the law as it is with what happens on a visual level, and it is here that the film succeeds on so many levels.

The late Director Kinju Fukusaku, who passed in 2003 whilst filming Battle Royale 2: Requiem (which was subsequently completed by his son Kenta Fukusaku), has created a masterful film here, which elicits a wide range of emotions. The serious tone of the movie is occasionally offset by some pitch black humor, mainly from Kitano Sensai, and the tone is further manipulated by the use of the incredible score by Masamichi Amano. In fact the score is one of the film’s strongest points, as it enhances the viewing experience by adding so much more depth to the action.

The primarily young cast is all superb in their roles, and only on one occasion does the action sink to an overly melodramatic level. For the most part though they carry the film exceptionally well and are more than capably supported by Takeshi Kitano, who is quite exceptional here.
Battle Royale, although well over 10 years old, has stood the test of time incredibly well. In fact if it had been released in the present no one would be any the wiser, such is a testament to the craft that went into making the movie.

On Blu-ray Battle Royale does look very good indeed, possibly not as clear as one might expect, although due to the refined picture it does draw attention to some of the CGI effects, which are average at best. That being said, Battle Royale has never looked so good and is still a crisp viewing experience.

Where the Blu-ray format really comes into effect to the fullest though is in the movie’s sound. It sounds absolutely incredible, with every sound and musical cue being crystal clear and at times quite thunderous. Battle Royale is at times quite an operatic movie and the hi-definition sound only enhances this facet of the movie.

This release, by Anchor bay Entertainment, only serves to further Battle Royale’s reputation as one of the best films of the past 20 years. It really is a quite exceptional film that can be revisited time and time again. The film is beautiful and hideous in equal amounts, providing shocks from its still controversial subject matter, and is quite an exhilarating viewing experience.

Battle Royale is an excellent film that demands your attention.

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