“Battle Royale” – Andrew Guarini

The first thing that is going to stick out about Battle Royale is the plot. Where has been done like this before? Never as far as I know. Maybe a movie has been done like this with full grown adults (edit: The Condemned), but what about a bunch of kids who aren’t even adults yet? A few kids who just got into high school. A class of ninth graders: friends, enemies, lovers, all being forced to kill each other off. Not only is the concept one of the best I’ve ever seen put on film, but the movie is paced so well that it’s hard to ignore how great this movie truly is. Never on my first time watching this movie was I bored, not even for one second. I didn’t want to pee, answer the phone, or skip a scene because I didn’t like it. Every scene kept me glued the screen and made me wish the movie would never ever end. The pacing is helped by the fact that the movie runs a few flashbacks to give you more insight into the characters pasts, and why they are what they are in the present. They use just the right amount of flashbacks, all at the right times, and not once was a flashback unclear or not important to the story or a character’s development. The well-done pace and the way Battle Royale is told make it one of the most interesting and well-paced movies I have ever seen. The action clicks on at all the right times, and the emotion clicks on at all the right times.

 

Battle Royale is one of the most unforgiving and brutal movies I have ever seen. The movie is gory for the most part but the gore isn’t what makes Battle Royale so brutal. The movie is acted to perfection by a cast of teenagers. The movie is about ninth graders, as I said; some lovers, some enemies, some friends, sent to an island by the government and given weapons to kill each other off. Not just this, they are armed with collars on their necks that can explode. Why would they explode? Every six hours, there are danger zones on their maps announced (like B-4, C-6..) and if they are in one, their collar will explode. That along with if they try to leave the island. The collar monitors their pulse, and this is how the honchos tell what kids are alive and which are dead. In America, a movie like this would never ever be made. And if it were ever made, Tom Cruise and Reese Witherspoon would be dressed up in school outfits trying to pass for teenagers. If this movie had adults trying to act as teenagers, it would have been so much less effective to the point that the movie would have been laughable. But the kids who played these parts, took them and ran. Every single second of this movie featured believable dialogue, emotion and everything. The movie has a great script, with not one clunker in the whole entire thing. The movie doesn’t throw in humor when it isn’t needed, much like every other movie does. It throws in it’s share of twisted humor. Such as the “Battle Royale” instruction video of an Asian female jumping around the screen explaining the rules of the game and smiling from ear to ear. More twisted humor is the fact that every kid has a different weapon as I said…and some get a gun (lucky) and some get binoculars or a pot lid (unlucky). There are a vastly majority of weapons, but in a way every one has a use. But you’d obviously want the gun over a paper fan! And every morning the announcement of the people that died. Really twisted indeed. The movie’s main character is a boy by the name of Nanahara Shuya, played by Tatsuya Fujiwara. Despite a tinge for melodrama, his emotional presence is unmistakable as he’s tossed between terrible conflicts.

 

The main female in the movie a girl by the name of Noriko who is played by Aki Maeda. Her performance was as amazing as she is beautiful! Flawless performance by Maeda, and it only helped that her character in the movie, along with Nanahara’s was extremely interesting. Two of the players in the game known as “Battle Royale” were exchange students known as Kawada and Kirijyma. Not only do they look older, but they are ruthless killers and don’t care about anyone. In other words, they are two of the cooler characters to grace a TV screen in my house. Kawada is played by Taro Yamamoto, and Kirijyma is played by Masanobu Ando. To this day I still can’t believe how awesome these two characters are. They reek badass and their acting is spot on every time they happen to come on screen. Bravo. As if there couldn’t be anymore great characters, yet another “one of the coolest characters ever to be on my TV” comes the “teacher” Kitano, played by Takeshi Kitano. Unbelievable how perfect fit he was for this part. Kitano is the ruthless teacher who’s pissed off at Japan’s youth and doesn’t give two shits who lives and who dies on that island, as long as a little bit of Japan’s youth is being cut off. His performance is as amazing as it unsympathetic (or is this a facade?) and eerie. Kitano didn’t direct the picture, but his signature acting style still permeates every scene he’s in.

 

An amazing thing about Battle Royale is that no matter how brutal is or can be taken as, it still is one of the more emotionally touching movies I’ve ever seen. Friendships torn apart, lovers fighting against each other to the death, and friends taking their friendship and trust to new levels hoping that they can escape together. The movie touches a lot of nerves, especially when you see flashbacks about characters and it kills you to see someone go down. It just gets you down to see these kids in such a bad situation. On a threshold of death, the kids share all their emotions with each other and can’t help but think of a way to maybe escape and go home. One of my favorite scenes is any movie is in Battle Royale, and not to spoil anything, I’ll just call it the…”Schoolgirl Shootout.” The movie is chock full of memorable scenes. Whether it be two characters talking, or students trying to take each other down with Uzi’s…the movie just stays in your head and doesn’t leave. This is what makes Battle Royale so great. All of this makes for one very rewatchable movie. Some movies may be rewatchable, but do they ever get better or stay as good as they were the first time? Not many; Battle Royale is a major exception. I still am touched by the emotional scenes, shocked by some deaths and still feel bad for what happens to these young kids. I have one small complaint about Battle Royale. Amist all the perfection that makes up this movie, there is a very minor flaw, and that is that the ending is kind of a cop out. I loved the final lines, I loved the final shot, but the ending itself was just a little bit of a let down. It doesn’t hurt the movie really at all, but it’s something worth mentioning.

 

After all these years, the film still has that intense grip on me, and it’s the mark of something truly special.

 

Rating: ★★★★

 

-Andrew Guarini

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