Archive for April, 2011

How does this exist: Kids murdering kids in “Battle Royale”

Posted in Action, Interesting... with tags , , , , , , on April 5, 2011 by judsonw

“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 BR Act….”

This is the title card that opens Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 film “Battle Royale.” What is the BR Act, you ask? This act forces classes of students, who the adults are simply sick of being so disrespectful, to an isolated island where they are forced to fight to the death until one student is left standing. The teenaged kids are all gassed on the bus ride for their “class trip” and wake up with the scary realization that they all now have electronic collars fitted around their necks. Where are they? And what exactly is going on?

Well those questions are quickly answered when the students’ teacher appears and explains just why the kids are here. With the guide of a dementedly humorous video from a quirky Japanese bombshell acting like a kindergarten teacher, the rules of the game are laid out. The kids have 3 days to kill each other until one is left. If after 3 days there is not one student left standing, all the collars will be detonated and explode around their necks, killing them instantly. These collars also prevents the kids from going into certain “danger zones” on the island, forcing them to confront each other.

At this point in the film it’s hard to take this teacher’s words for real. There’s no way that the government would allow innocent children to die horrible deaths, right? Think again. To prove his point, the teacher chucks a knife into a young girl’s forehead for whispering and then demonstrates what happens when the collars explode on a certain mischievous student.

The whole sequence is shocking, disgusting, and incredibly sad to watch. Yet, I couldn’t take my eyes away from what was happening on screen. From this point on the movie becomes an insanely tense action movie that tests the depths a human will go to survive. Alliances are formed while most of the kids stick to the cliques they belonged to in school. Others go after the cliques that never accepted them, murdering them in cold blood. Each student is given a bag. The contents of the bag: food and water and a weapon. However, every kid’s weapon is different. One gets a machine gun, one gets a pot lid, while another gets a glass of poison. It’s the luck of the draw.

One of the reasons I loved “Battle Royale” is the fact that a movie like this would never be made in America. Can you imagine a movie where Abigail Breslin shoots a crossbow into Dakota Fanning’s chest, narrowly missing the ax heave from behind by Selena Gomez, who’s teamed up with Joe Jonas to fight to the death? Parent and religious organizations would be rioting in the streets. If a harmless risque photo spread of the Glee kids causes a controversy, what would happen with a movie like this? Foreign cinema, Japanese films especially, take risks that can’t be found at the average American multiplex.