Friday, July 28, 2006

Movie Review: Battle Royale

The other day I was in the kitchen getting some Arizona Diet Green Tea (it’s god shit) when Bebe asked me, “Are you watching one of those Asian flicks again?”

I smiled a bit while opening the fridge and said, “Yes.” Netflix sent me Hard Boiled that day, a movie I’d wanted to see for close to ten years, and I was very excited to pop it in the DVD player and get started.

“Why do you watch so many Asian movies?” she asked.

“Well,” I said, “there’s a whole planet out there making movies.” I closed the fridge and walked over to the counter to grab a cup. “Why should I limit myself only to the movies that are made here?” I pour the iced tea into the cup as I waited for her response. “And besides, it’s not just Asian films; I watch movies from Europe, Africa, Australia, and South America too.”

“You know that you’re weird, right?” she asked me.

I laughed as I put the idea tea back in the fridge, “Call me what you want. You’re the one missing out.”

I’m glad that I’m “weird” because if I wasn’t I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to watch Battle Royale last night. This is a movie I’d heard about for the last few years, but thanks to severe limitations on what Hollywood Video and Blockbuster carry, I’d never had the chance to see it. Well, thanks to my new Netflix subscription I had to wait no longer.

Usually I pop these in my nice A/V set up in my loft. 48” HDTV, Dolby and/or DTS 5.1 surround, progressive scan DVD player, futon, fan, and some comfortable pillows. Just the sort of stuff to help you relax after a hard days work and an hour or two at the gym. However, I’ve been trying to spend more time with Bebe lately since she will only sit in the bed room, with the little TV on, and her laptop buzzing. Usually, I’m upstairs in the loft and she’s in the bedroom. Thanks to Cobb County Public School System, we’ve got a spare laptop in the house now, so I popped the DVD in that and decided to watch while sitting next to her. Of course, this is the one day she decides to do something upstairs, so it was all pointless. I still started and finished the movie on the laptop, since once it started I couldn’t put it down.

Battle Royale is something that couldn’t be made here in the states, or at least made correctly. Just yesterday there was a story about New Line trying to do an American Remake of the film. I don’t have a problem if they take the premises, change it, and call it something else, but don’t try to “remake” Battle Royale, because you’re not going to be able to do it. Even Quentin Tarantino himself would fall short with a remake.

Wow, I’ve written a bunch and haven’t even set up the premise yet have I? Okay, here goes…At the start of the millennium society in Japan is on the verge of collapse. Unemployment is around 15% and people are just in the pits. This, of course, leads to the youth of society rebelling and basically paying no heed to adults or authority as a whole. Students decide they just take days off because they can, or that they don’t have to do anything the teacher says. It’s utter chaos to put it lightly.

Then, Japan passes the Battle Royale Act, which states that a class will be chosen in a random lottery to fight it out, to the death, on some sort of controlled environment. This year it’s on a deserted island. All the students enter, but only one gets to leave, the lone survivor, proving to society that they have “what it takes” to be an adult. The 9th grade class chosen this year has no idea they’ve been selected, they think they’re going on a class trip…until they all awake in the middle of a broken down classroom as soldiers yell at them.

After a somewhat comical briefing on the rules and what it takes to win, each student is sent out onto the island with the bag they arrived with, and a bag with supplies and a “weapon.” However, this “weapon” could be an axe, gun, bullet proof vest, or GPS device, or something else altogether.

I’m not going to go into details on the characters, since there are 43 in all, but sure enough things get very lord of the flies. This movie is violent, and I mean ultra violent, but it all works perfectly. Some of the students decide to team up, others kill without remorse, you get small snippets of about 10 characters or so, and some events in their lives that explain why they’re doing what they’re doing. The rest are just fodder for these ten kids.

The movie centers around the budding relationship of Shuya (played by Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko (played by Aki Maeda), and what they do to survive. However, I wouldn’t say that the whole film follows these two as there are several other plots and subplots going on. In the end, well…I won’t spoil it, but needless to say it’s very bloody.

I really enjoyed this flick and think it was one of the most original titles I’ve seen in a long time. I give it a solid 9 out of 10. Evidently, this was based on a book which goes much deeper into many of the characters, so I might check that out. Some people might recognize Chiaki Kuriyama from the movie “Kill Bill Volume 1,” where she played the character Gogo, the Japanese school girl with the big ball and chain that gives The Bride all sorts of trouble. Kuriyama plays Takako Chigusa in Battle Royale, a minor character but one that does get a decent amount of face time in one of the scenes.



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