What I’m Watching At Home: Battle Royale

Battle Royale - Netflix

Viewed on February 9, 2013 via Netflix Streaming
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I didn’t follow this movie as closely as I would have liked. I had a hyperactive four-year-old nephew sitting on my lap for most of it. Luckily it wasn’t a movie that I needed to follow closely (though it probably would have helped). The film is about a group of Japanese schoolchildren who are dumped onto a deserted island and then forced to fight each other to the death. The last one standing gets to leave the island and return to a normal life. This “battle royale” is a solution to the problem of childhood delinquency. We’re told (more or less) that the Japanese children are becoming menaces to society and the adults are afraid of them.

The funny thing is that out of the 42 teenagers on the island, only a small handful seem like they’d be problems. The rest appear well-behaved and harmless. So that made the premise a little hard to believe. It’s also hard to believe that the government would want to embrace the lone kid that out-survived all the others. What kind of psychopath would that kid end up being? But I may be over-thinking it. The point of this movie is to see these kids kill each other. In fact the opening feels very expositional, as though it’s all just a set up for the killing.

In that respect it was a somewhat entertaining film. The kids certainly found interesting ways to kill each other. I’ve never really seen anything like that and found it intriguing to watch kids be so brutal. They took to killing each other faster than I would have imagined. I suppose it helped that they were wearing electronic collars that would kill them if they didn’t kill each other. Still I wonder if kids would really start going after each other this quickly in real life. May we never find out.

I didn’t find myself caring much about any of the kids. In fact I had a difficult time telling some of them apart at the beginning, which I suppose may sound racially insensitive, and maybe it is, but 40 of the 42 kids were all wearing the same uniform, and in general I don’t have very much experience distinguishing between Japanese faces. I think my nephew had similar issues because the only character he seemed to like was Kiriyama (played by Masanobu Andô), and that was only because that character wasn’t wearing a uniform and he had a lot of hair. In fact my nephew charmingly referred to him as “Harry” the whole movie long.

Masanobu Andô as Kazuo Kiriyama a.k.a. Harry

And in case you’re wondering, yes I did have some reservations about a letting a 4 year old watch this movie, but I ended up just letting him and not thinking worrying about it. If he starts trying to have death-fights at his school, I suppose I’ll intervene then.

All said, this was an okay movie. It passed the time and it didn’t bore me. Not a glowing recommendation, no, but I’m glad I finally saw it after hearing about it for so long.

My Rating

Battle Royale
DirectorKinji Fukasaku (The Geisha House, Battle Royale II)
WritersKenta Fukasaku (Battle Royale II, Blade [TV Series]), Koushun Takami (Battle Royale [novel])

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2 Responses to “What I’m Watching At Home: Battle Royale”

  1. Steve says:

    I just recently watched this too. I’ve heard much about this movie so decided to check it out.

    It was …okay, as you say. I think my biggest problem with it was the cartoonish way that people shot. Especially Kiriyama (“Harry”). It’s like their flicking their wrists and pointing at the person instead of taking aim and shooting. Also, there were multiple situations where a gunman was very close to the person he was shooting at and they missed!! I know I am probably looking into this too much (heck, they never hit James Bond either!) but for some reason I felt they went over and above, and in the end it actually feels less real to me.

    • Nic says:

      Yeah I agree. Bad gunwork can totally ruin a decent action movie, but I think this movie already felt so cartoony and far-fetched to me that the gunwork wasn’t too much of a concern.

      I’d heard a lot about this movie too, but after seeing it I’m not sure why.

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