Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DVD Review: "Battle Royale"

"At the dawn of the millennium, the nation collapsed. At fifteen percent unemployment, ten million were out of work. 800,000 students boycotted school. The adults lost confidence, and fearing the youth, eventually passed the Millennium Educational Reform Act - AKA: The Battle Royale Act..."

That is the introduction to Kinji Fukasaku's 2000 film "Battle Royale." Based upon the 1999 novel by the same name, the story takes place sometime in the near future, when almost all Japanese teens have abandoned school. They've lost all respect for elders and essentially do as they please. The government creates an initiative to randomly choose one high school class per year to be kidnapped and taken to a deserted island. Once there they are fitted with electronic tracking collars, given survival packs and told that they have three days to battle each other to the death. If at the end of three days no winner is declared, they all die.

The film leaves something to be desired in terms of exposition and a thorough explanation of the so-called "BR Act"-- namely, what are they hoping to accomplish with the BR Act? However, the concept and delivery of the film's action make up for most of its rough spots.

Fukasaku's film seemed to have a strong socio-political message, however it was hard to decipher exactly what he was trying to say. The fact that there isn't an official U.S. DVD release didn't help, as I do believe the subtitles on my disc were sometimes incorrect. The music cues in the film were also a little strange. Some of the most dramatic scenes were made incredibly melodramatic by the overly emotional score. The strong point of the film was the "Lord of the Flies" inspired elements-- forcing friends to kill one another for survival is just a really hard idea to handle.

"Battle Royale" was very compelling and, though it left me with a few questions, the story was an interesting take on an established theme. If you can bear with the flawed subtitles and cheesy score, this one is definitely worth checking out.

Score: 4 out of 5

** This film has been tapped for an American remake, though given the the main theme of the film, and American audiences notoriously prudish sensibilities, I don't think it will happen anytime soon.**

No comments: