Battle Royale

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The ViewWellington Review

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Review byMatthew Turner17/09/2001

Four out of five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Controversial Japanese horror flick that crosses ‘reality TV’ with Lord of the Flies – sharply written, bloody, and darkly funny, this is a cut above your usual exploitation fare.

Some time in the future, the Japanese government has introduced a radical measure to cut down on juvenile crime – a randomly selected high school class of 42 students is gassed, stranded on a desert island, then given weapons and three days in which to kill each other.

Only one student can survive, otherwise the collar-bombs around their necks will explode…

Initially, it is hard to keep track of all 42 characters, though fortunately the film immediately sets about whittling down that number and an onscreen scorecard helps you keep track.

Also, since each character is given a different weapon (some more useful than others), it’s often easier to remember who’s who from their weapons. (This leads to one of the funniest lines in the film: "Ah. Pot lid and Binoculars. How’s it going?")

What really makes the film work is that the situation heightens all the usual high-school paranoia and rivalries, so that you get one character gleefully killing another because "you stole my boyfriend!", another pleading for her life by saying "I wasn’t part of your clique, but I always liked you!" and so on.

There are definite plot-holes (such as, if the whole thing is supposed to be televised, how come none of them have heard of it), but it has such a strong central premise and moves along so swiftly that you have no choice but to go along for the ride.

There’s a lot of humour in the film (particularly the extremely perky ‘instruction video’) and Takeshi Kitano has a blast in his role as a sort of master-of-ceremonies. Make no mistake, however, this is a very violent and bloody film – definitely not for the squeamish.

It remains to be seen just how much of a fuss the Daily Mails of the world will kick up over this. However, if you can take the violence, then this is a hugely enjoyable exploitation film, and a rare example of a foreign film where you’d actually be quite pleased to see the American remake. Recommended.

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Content updated: 20/07/2019 09:25

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