Saturday, June 04, 2016

Battle Royale (2000, Japanese) **

A group of teenage school kids are put on an island, given weapons, and instructed to kill each other off. Collars around their neck will explode in three days unless only one of them is left alive, so they cannot simply join together and refuse to fight. At certain points in the day, various parts of the island become danger zones that will make the collars explode, so the kids have to constantly move around. Only young love can help them survive. The ensuing bloodshed is promoted as entertainment to the Japanese populace.

If this movie sounds like a Japanese rip-off of “The Hunger Games,” be aware that the first “Hunger Games” novel came out in 2008, while the “Battle Royale”novel was written in 1996, with the movie released in 2000. If anything, the accusations of plagiarism should be going in the other direction, as the stories are remarkably similar. Whoever came up with the idea, the “Hunger Games” movie is a much better film. “Battle Royale” is full of nonsensical plot points and a distinctly Japanese style of acting that involves over-acting alternating with staring blankly. I suppose the movie has a certain culty charm, if you are into that sort of thing.

The paradox of movies like this is that even as we in the audience judge the sick society that creates entertainment out of kids murdering each other, we are also watching the killings, reveling in the action as our chosen players kill off the other characters. The director tricks us into cheering on the very violence that we condemn. While we're talking about exploitation, you can't help but notice that all the young actresses in this film wear short, little schoolgirl skirts.  So it isn't a complete loss.

2 stars out of 5

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