Saturday, November 26, 2016

Battle Royale (2000)

Battle Royale is a Japanese film, which means I enjoy it if only for the fact that Japan is the only place in the world that makes my home state of Florida look sober. This is a well known movie if only for the fact that it was made in a glorious time before things got so politically correct and now we can't show school children murdering each other on screen anymore. Oh the halcyon days.

Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Starring: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Takeshi Kitano

So this is about a weird alternative universe where the Japanese school system is so fed up with misbehaving children that it allows one depraved maniac to take an entire group of them to a deserted island and force them all to kill each other. In other words, it's every teacher's fantasy come to life. And let me tell you, these are some awful, rotten kids. Just look at this:

These fucking monsters need to die now!

So of course, the whole class gets gassed on a school bus, kidnapped and taken to a dark secluded location on an island where they're told they have to start murdering one another until only one remains! Man, detention is starting to look pretty good right now, huh?

They show how serious they are by throwing a knife and hitting one girl square in the head, and making another kid blow up via a weird necklace all of them are wearing. Jesus fucking Christ. Who built these things?

It's insane how serious they are about this. They passed a fucking governmental bill to fund this! I guess solving homelessness, poverty or crime wasn't that important in Japan. How did that conversation go?

TEACHER A: These fucking kids are out of control! One of them stabbed me in the leg the other day!

TEACHER B: Gee willikers, that's fucked up! How about we call the police on that one kid and have him put in juvenile detention center for a while?

TEACHER A: Nah, that's not good enough. I think I'm going to quit my job and become the head of this military group to take the entire class to an island and make them kill each other! And they'll all wear monitor neckbraces so we can know where they are at all times and kill them remotely if we have to!

TEACHER B: Don't you think that's a little overkill...

TEACHER A: Silence!

Also, in case you didn't realize – there are a lot of goddamn characters in this movie. Too many, in fact. I can't keep them all straight, save for the main kid, Nanahara, whose father killed himself and the lead girl, Noriko. That's really one of the film's problems... it's too hard to keep all these characters straight. It's not too big of a deal, since the emphasis is on the violence and mayhem more than characters. But unless you're really into teenage high school drama, I doubt any of these characters' emotional arcs will stick with you.

Most of the movie is just these kids running around on the island murdering each other in horrific ways – via machine guns, swords, who knows what else. They have three days to do all this and every couple of hours, Kitano, the sadistic teacher running this, announces the names of everyone who died. The violence is pretty goddamn over the top, with tons of heads blown up, giant sprays of blood, heads cut off – pretty much everything they could throw in, you'll find here.

I do like how ready some of these kids were to go all-out like that. Clearly, they picked the right kids! These kids never gave a fuck about an education. They were too busy tearing the heads off their little siblings' dolls and action figures and studying human anatomy way too intently. These kids were a little TOO excited to start chasing each other with katanas and assault rifles.

Nanahara and Noriko meet up with an older kid, Kawada, who they find out has won the game in the past, but is now back in – I just love how this guy looks like a Mini-Me Japanese version of a Bruce Willis 80s action hero, complete with ripped sleeves, an open shirt and a bandana around his head. He smokes a lot, too. That's how we know he's SUPER cool!

There's a scene where a bunch of teenage schoolgirls kill each other with machine guns in a tight space. Or as I like to call it, the most Japanese thing I've ever seen. Seriously – this is like a ridiculous caricature of the crazy shit they like to put in movies. It's like if an American action movie had a guy killing a Nazi with a bald eagle's beak and then he goes and eats a piece of apple pie after – just everything summed up in one crazy image!

But then there are also a bunch of other scenes where they try to have some kind of depth... it's really kinda surreal. Like several scenes, they have a kid dying in front of a girl and then professing some cheesy kind of love for her. It's seriously meant to be touching – and after all the other violence! Sorry, but I can't take it seriously after watching the previous scene of a bunch of schoolgirls in uniforms murder each other. Sorry if that doesn't put me in the mood!

They get down to like five people, and have a few more battles that predictably end in more gore and violence – a big surprise, if you just turned the movie on now. Then it's just down to Nanahara, Noriko and Kawada. Nanahara reflects peacefully on life, musing that for SOME REASON he's never trusted adults for most of his life. I'm sure this experience, then, has been nothing but positive for him.

Then Kawada turns on them, proclaiming it was all a trick and he just thought they were good scapegoats to lead to the end of the game. Some gunshots are heard by the guys in control over the kids' microphone neck-braces, but nothing is seen...

Then Kawada comes back and meets Kitano, and they have a pretty over-long conversation about how he was doing all of it to avenge his lost girlfriend. My favorite part of this nonsense is when Kitano reveals this wacky cartoon drawing he did of a bunch of dead kids with one still standing on a mountain. Are we sure this guy should have EVER been a teacher? I think someone needs to do a fucking background check on this guy.

Nanahara and Noriko bust in and they stage a coup and start yet another gun-fight with Kitano. Both Kawada and Kitano take a bunch of bullets. Kitano gets up, somehow, at the end, to make a phone call to his daughter, eat a cookie, and then die... okay then? What a weird fucking sequence.

These two pictures are in order. Never underestimate the power of cookies to sustain life beyond death.

On a boat later, Kawada gives a traditionally sappy-ass speech about his lost girlfriend and dies, too, from the bullet wounds. Later on, we see that Nanahara and Noriko leave society for good and now carry weapons at all times just out of straight up fear. Awesome. Now I'm seeing the positive benefits of this game. I'm so glad the Japanese government made THIS program legal...

So apparently, this movie was controversial because of a rise of violent crime that arose after its release, which conservative politicians, surprise surprise, tied to the violence in the film. Which is, you know, true. Every time I see a movie with violence in it, I go out and commit a crime. And those who know history know that the Mongols and Genghis Khan committed all their atrocities after watching violent movies. Violent media is the only reason any violence happens. Humans are pacifists otherwise.

Honestly, this movie was pretty decent. I didn't love it, but it was entertaining enough due to its wanton violence and energy – just a gleeful good time. It went on too long, though – two hours is way too much for something this one-dimensional. It did try at some other things like drama and character development, but I just didn't feel like either one was done all that well. While parts were fun, other parts did come off as a bit soggy or dull, especially the longer it dragged on. This should have been maybe 90 minutes, not two hours.

And also, it really sucks that this movie ripped off The Hunger Games so hard! That really downsizes it a few letter grades to me.

Images copyright of their original owners, I own none of them.