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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Tatsuya Fujiwara
Aki Maeda
Taro Yamamoto
Masanobu Ando
Kou Shibasaki
Chiaki Kuriyama
Beat Takeshi.
Directors
Fukasaku Kinji.
Screenwriters
Fukasaku Kenta.
Running Time
113 minutes

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Battle Royale
Provocative Japanese sci-fi


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Plot
In the near future, Japan institutes a programme to cope with rising youth crime, by selecting a random class of 14 and15 year-olds and packing them off to an island, where they are given weapons and three days to eliminate each other until a sole survivor remains.


Review
William Golding's Lord Of The Flies has always been a popular set text in schools because it makes young readers wonder what they would do in the same situation. Battle Royale does exactly the same thing, but with even harder choices for its school-uniformed characters.

With a level of violence that restricts it to adult cinemagoers, this will really play when seen by audiences the same age as its characters. The censorious might feel a fantasy like this encourages teen violence, but director Fukasaku Kinji actually does a wonderful job of making the horrors alien and degrading, as a few sympathetic characters rail against the adult system that forces them to act like a conservative's nightmare of rebel youth.

The film deftly establishes its unlikely premise and allows enough glimpses of regular school life to explain why teacher Kitano (played to world-weary perfection by a wry Beat Takeshi) is fed up with his class. Then, the kids are gassed on a bus trip and wake up on an isolated island, where Kitano is empowered to throw a knife into the skull of a girl who talks during a lecture and blow the head off the chief troublemaker to make a point.

Then, for three days, 42 children are on their own, dying in comic-horrific vignettes that often ring uncomfortably true, and showing nobility as often as beastliness. By the time you've worked out who the kids are, most of them have gone, in a succession of surprising, disturbing, touching, horribly funny or deeply upsetting ways. It's impossible to guess which of these neatly-uniformed youngsters is secretly a serial killer, a self-sacrificing hero, a born victim or simply another body count statistic.

Indeed, it's a movie that never lets you settle down, zipping between satire and splatter, offering moments that will make the most hardened viewer cringe and snatches of quiet melancholy that will haunt you for a long time.


Extras

Battle Royale Battle Royale
Released: 13 December 2010
As well as a booklet and poster, this three-disc set includes a Beat Takeshi interview in the world’s brownest room, score recording, plus a disturbingly chipper 50-minute ‘making of’. Two highlights: the crew discovering the island is infested with goats; and Fukasaku (dressed in his on-set uniform of Fila wifebeater and porno shades) being presented with a 70th birthday cake by his cast, happily clapping away but looking like they’ve just returned from a foodfight in an abattoir.


Verdict
Some will be uncomfortable or appalled, and the mix of humour and horror is uneasy, but this isn't a film you'll forget easily. And, seriously, what would you do?


Reviewed by Kim Newman


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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Battle Royale
Empire Star Rating

Stunning,for a host of reasons.

Battle Royale is a rare film indeed due to the fact that it seamlessly interweaves two opposing genres so bloody well. The first of these two is a thriller. The fact that there are so many characters trying to kill each other, so many cliques vying for supremacy that you never really know who to root for. The second is more blurred but, in this reviewer's opinion, is a satire. The way that the film so subtly juxtaposes a darkly funny side to the horror leads the audience to laugh at some of ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmfanatic123 at 20:02, 31 May 2011 | Report This Post


Terrific!

Thought this was a terrific film! Loved the atmosphere, terror, warmth and social commentary on violence, trust and our relationships with one another. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by victhom19 at 22:13, 02 May 2011 | Report This Post


This is a movie I've been meaning to watch for ages, heard nothing but good things and it didn't disappoint. It's bleak vision of the near future where kids are forced to compete on a last man standing contest is pretty grim. It's well shot and well acted. Some good death scenes too. Can't wait to see the sequel. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lukejt02 at 23:00, 28 March 2011 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

A very cool and violent film. I loved how the confusion and fear was captured. Not quite as good as Oldboy but one of my favourite modern Asian films. ... More

Posted by jamdodge1 at 13:10, 02 December 2007 | Report This Post


RE:

Just seen this for the first time today. I like it. very good. definatky in my top 1o forgeing films.   4/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ukacidman at 19:22, 27 November 2007 | Report This Post


RE: Battle Royale

In my Top 10 of all time! Outstanding! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MuckyMuckMan at 16:56, 23 February 2007 | Report This Post


RE:

 amazing movie ... More

Posted by madhatter666 at 15:08, 27 January 2007 | Report This Post


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