I like Japan. I’m not Nippon crazy or anything, but I do have a healthy respect for the country that has given us PlayStations, sushi and such wonderful films as Seven Samurai and Grave of the Fireflies. I also like Japan because from a Western outlook, it seems completely nutty; let’s not forget TV shows like Takeshi’s Castle, Pitagora Suichi, or that prank show where they pretended to murder a businessman’s friends in front of him for laughs. Indeed, it takes a fuming white guy on the Internet to remind us that actually Japan isn’t really that weird. Nevertheless, further evidence of Japan’s idiosyncrasies comes in the form of Battle Royale, the film based on the book by Koushun Takami.
Set in a dystopian future, 42 schoolchildren, who are supposedly on a school trip, are kidnapped and knocked out. When they wake up, they have radio controlled bracelets around their necks and are in a classroom. An angry man with the demeanour of an army general walks into the room and explains to the students that they are part of a scheme called Battle Royale to select the strongest person in the room via a deathmatch. Each student is given a backpack containing a random item ranging from deadly machine guns to useless coat hangers. The neck bracelets can be detonated at any time, instantly killing the wearer. The ‘teacher’ hears a student whispering and throws a knife right into her skull, killing her. “Girl #18 Fujiyoshi – dead, 41 to go” read the Japanese subtitles. And so the battle begins!
Bluntly put, it’s a visceral action film, but with tremendous creativity, and many different styles of action. Explosions, martial arts and weapon fights are all embraced in this spectacular film. After every fight scene the names of those dead are listed, explaining how many contestants are left. None of the contestants’ deaths are unaccounted for, and most have their own individual story. It’s well put together and keeps momentum throughout. A very fun and memorable movie.