Battle Royale (Batoru Rowaiaru) (2001) – 4.5/5

Another crazy Asian film with lots of violence and gore. What makes this movie unique, and controversial, is the fact that most of the violence is between young High School-age kids, and cute ones at that. Well, the girls at least.

There’s nothing quite like seeing a group of cute Asian High School girls massacre one another with machine guns and other assorted weapons. Geez. Luckily, most of it is so over the top and unrealistic that it’s hard to take seriously, or even be disturbed by, although there are a few scenes here and there that come close.

The plot is ridiculous and makes no sense. Why this society feels the need to imprison groups of school children on an island and force them to battle to the death is never properly explained. Something about violence in society, an overall disrespect of elders, teaching the kids a lesson? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Huge chunks of this film make no sense whatsoever, and dismissing them from one’s mind is quite easy to do given the extreme nature of it all.

To its credit, it’s all mostly very, very entertaining. Whenever the film isn’t focusing on violence or insane gun/knife/grenade battles, though, it does get a bit schmaltzy. These kids are all still in High School, or the Japanese equivalent, and everything is about who loves who and who hates who and drama drama drama.

I understand the necessity of wanting to craft characters with drive and emotion, but did every character have to have the same drive and emotion? Did they all have to have heart to heart talks between the terrible violence, and did these talks all have to mostly consist of who loves whom and so on? Surely kids this age aren’t this shallow. Or maybe they are, but I would imagine, given the circumstances, they would find other things to talk about outside of their love lives. But maybe I’m wrong.

The cinematography and the fight scenes are the best part of this film, naturally. There’s a scene at the beginning when ***SPOILERS** everything is being explained to the group that is really well staged, and violent, and realistic. There’s also a crazy scene involving a group of girls in a lighthouse that was absolutely brilliant. The level of violence is just immense. **END SPOILERS** And the whole film had an air of sadness to it; all these people are friends, and yet they’re being forced to kill one another for no good reason.

You can tell Quentin Tarantino borrowed a lot from this film when making Kill Bill. Even one of the actors comes right out of this movie, and wears almost the same outfit Uma Thurman has on during the “Crazy 88” fight scene in Volume 1. The yellow outfit that movie is most known for.

I also don’t really understand the controversy behind this film. Sure, it’s violent, and sure, it involves children, but it’s all so over the top that it’s hard to take seriously. A film like “City of God,” which features a great deal of violence done to kids much younger than those portrayed here, and in much more realistic a fashion, doesn’t have the same level of stigma that this film has. Why? Because that’s supposed to be based on reality, and this isn’t? How could anyone take this film seriously? It’s clearly not meant to be.

Anyway, good movie, crazy, entertaining as hell. Worth watching.

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