Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Tarô Yamamoto
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Running Time: 113 mins
Battle Royale is a Japanese film about a class of 42 students who are randomly selected to be the participants of the government’s annual fight to the death, Battle Royale, pitting friends against each other and forcing them to kill one another.
This is a seriously violent and disturbing film. It’s massively controversial for its depiction of violence between teenagers, and rightly so, because it is pretty heavy-going and shocking to see. However it tells a thrilling story not just on an action level, but also on a human level, and does a great job of making such a twisted concept so intriguing and entertaining to watch.
So, the main thing that has to be said about this is that it really isn’t for the faint-hearted. Tarantino is weak and comical in comparison to this, and although this does have some hyperbolic, less realistic violence, the majority of it is properly dark, gritty and bloody, something that hugely heightens the sense of fear that you feel for our main characters.
The story is pretty much what The Hunger Games is based on (but that is so much weaker than this), but this doesn’t focus on the wider world as that does, i.e. politics, the media and the characters’ families, this is much more focussed on telling the story of the violent battle where long-time friends kill one another as well as the powerful relationship between the main characters.
The power and strength of that human story is one of the most surprising things about this film, that it holds its own against the whole ‘battle to the death’. The two main characters, a teenage boy and girl, are united through their relatively trivial crush on one another, however the direction that this film takes their relationship in is fascinating.
It doesn’t look at it as so much of a romance, for fear of cheapening the grittiness and hard-hitting atmosphere of the whole film, but instead shows a gradual development of their caring relationship amidst the horrors of the battle, and it leaves it up to you to decide how far the two have gone together, again putting more focus on the violence, but still making an engrossing and original emotional story that works extremely well.
In terms of that violent action story, it’s absolutely thrilling for every second of the film. Throughout, you are constantly on edge, it’s a tense and scary survival story that is pretty unpredictable, but what is most thrilling about it is the fact that it is just so immoral, and yet so appealing.
Of course, not ‘appealing’ in a likeable way, but in such a way that you are not disgusted by the harrowing violence between the teenagers, instead confused, shocked and intrigued by it, because it is just so weird, and that is what allows you to be sucked into the story so easily for its entire duration.
Overall, this gets a 9.0, because it’s such an exhilarating and tense action thriller, with both a fascinating emotional story that focusses on very well-developed characters, and an insane action plot with violence that will shock you with its immorality and gore, but thrill you all the same.