I was going to start this review with the statement, ‘At least this is one Japanese film that won’t be remade by some unimaginative American’. But just to make sure that statement was correct, because we’re all about fact checking here at the FCU, I decided to do a little research and damn if it didn’t come to my unwanted attention that the rights to the neo-classic Japanese film ‘Battle Royale’ have been bought and an American feature film is now in development. You’re kidding me right? Is this is some kind of warped joke? It’s not that I mind that Hollywood is showcasing its complete lack of imagination by remaking yet another Asian film. Once I heard they were remaking Chan-Woo Park’s ‘Old Boy’ I knew then they held nothing sacred. But THIS Asian film? No – Freakin’ – Way. Considering that ‘Battle Royale’ is damn near impossible to get through traditional means in the good ‘ol U.S. of A, but now we are going to remake it within these shores. Hell, ‘Battle Royale’ caused enough trouble in the land of scat, subway gropes and pixilated genitalia, but here? This is one remake I just gotta see.
Based on a novel by Japanese author Koushun Takami, ‘Battle Royale’ tells the tale of kids gone completely buck wild in Japan. So much so that a law had to be passed known as the ‘Millennium Educational Reform Act’. The crux of the act is a game called Battle Royale where a class of the most unruly students are stuck on an island, given various weapons and have a total of three days to kill each other until one is left. The class of interest here is a 9th grade class ending their compulsory education and are on their way back home from a field trip. Unbeknownst to them, they are drugged and when they awaken they are in an abandoned classroom. Their former
teacher, Kitano (Takeshi Takano, who once took a blade from a student, alerts them that they have been randomly selected to perform in the next Battle Royale. Some of the kids aren’t quite believers so sensei Takano pierces a loudly complaining students forehead with his blade. Some become believers, but not all. All of the students are wearing these neck bands which track their movement, and monitors their vitals, but also serve as an explosive device. When another young man, Kobu, best friend of the amiable Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) mouths off once too often, Kitano activates his remote and the boy collar starts to beep. Soon it blows up nearly severing the boys head from his neck. They are all pretty much true believers now.
The rules are simple. The students are given various devices from automatic weapons to tazers, sent off into the woods, and must kill each other off. They have three days. If there is more than one student left by the end of the third day then all of the active collars go off. Thrown in as wildcards are the mercenary Kawada (Taro Yammomoto) and the psychopathic Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando). Shuya has taken it upon himself to protect the sweet and innocent Noriko with both refusing to kill anyone. Some students absolutely refuse to participate and take themselves out, while others are willing to play if means that they will survive.
So if you’re following me, this is a movie about high school kids given a bunch of lethal weapons and instructed to slaughter each other. And they do kill each other in just about every possible way imaginable. How in the world, in the land of Columbine, could a movie with this concept ever be considered cool?
The thing that makes ‘Battle Royale’ enjoyable however, despite the abject carnage, is that at its core it’s just an everyday teen movie. There’s crushes, unrequited love, bullies, jocks, sluts, geeks, activists and it’s all woven around the simple need to survive. Some students form alliances along the cliques they had in school, others seek out loves that they never told anyone about, usually to tragic results. Then there’s the lovely Mitsuko (Kou Shibasaki) who is pretty much the class slut and as a result has an unreasonable number of girls after her, but being more streetwise than all of them combined, she uses whatever skills she deems necessary to survive.
The underlying message
beneath all of this violence has to be that we are
destroying ourselves and we are losing our most precious
resource, which is our youth. Similar to the
message of parents who allow their children to smoke
weed in the house, theory being they are going to do it
anyway, so at least we can monitor it, ‘Battle Royale’
seems to be saying ‘they’re going to kill each other
anyway, we might as well control how they do it’.
Will any of this translate back to an American
remake? The Good Lord only knows, but I have to
admit, this is one remake attempt I’m looking forward to