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Battle Royale

Japan 2000
produced by
Kinji Fukasaku, Kenta Fukasaku, Kimio Kataoka, Chie Kobayashi, Toshio Nabeshima, Masumi Okada for Toei, Fukasaku-gumi
directed by Kinji Fukasaku
starring Beat Takeshi (= Takeshi Kitano), Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda, Taro Yamamoto, Masanobu Ando, Kou Shibasaki, Chiaki Kuriyama, Shirou Gou, Eri Ishikawa, Takashi Tsukamoto, Sousuke Takaoka, Hitomi Hyuga, Minami, Ai Maeda
screenplay by Kenta Fukasaku, based on the novel by Koshun Takami, music by Masamichi Amano, second unit director: Kenta Fukasaku

Battle Royale

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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The conflict between the generatins has gotten more & more violent to a point where the grown-ups fear their own youths - to a point where they have passed the Battle Royale act, a law that forces a randomly chosen class of ninthgraders to fight each other on a remote deserted to last man standing.

As another class is introduced to the rules of the game - having been told they would go on a class trip -, the students soon have to find out how merciless the game is, as, even during instructing them, Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) - a former teacher of them, who is despised by everyone including his wife & his daughter Shiori (Ai Maeda), to whom he speaks on the phone frequently, & who hates everyone back - kills 2 of them  in front of their very eyes, & has the massacred body of their teacher rolled in as a vivid illustration of their situation. & to spice things up a bit, Kitano has also thrown 2 transfer students into the mix, Kawada (Taro Yamamoto) & Kiriyama (Masanobu Ando) - one because he has already once won the Battle Royale, the other because he's a bloodthirsty bastard.

Every student is soon given a pack containing a random weapon - which could be anything from a machine gun to ... a pot lid - & is sent outside into the battlefield one by one. As Shuya & Noriko are sent out reloattively late, they have to find out the game has already begun & reality shows its grim face, as many of their former friends turned bloodthirsty beasts - but not necessarily very successful in killing anyone but themselves - & petty quarrels & minor intrigues suddenly prove good enough reasons to kill one another.

Some commit suicide to escape the bloody proceedings altogether, while others like transfer student Kiriyama or beautiful but bitchy Mitsuko (Kou Shibasaki) take a liking to killing their fellow students very soon.

All seems lost for Shuya & Noriko when they receive unexpected help from transfer student Kwawda, who chooses the couple as his companions because they remind him of Keiko (Minami), who he wanted to save her when he was in the last Battle Royale, but when she betrayed him he had to kill her in order to stay alive.

Shuya soon gets separated from Kawada & Noriko & is badly wounded, but nursed back to health by Utsumi (Erie Ishikawa), who has secretly been in love with him for the longest time, but who is soon killed by group dynamics gone horribly wrong  that lead to a deadly shoot-out. But Shuya learns that electronics expert Mimura (Takashi Tsukamoto) might know a way out as he has gained access to a computer, &, still weak, he heads back for Noriko & Kawada, & after many more shoot-outs including the final demise of Mitsuko, they actually get to Mimura, who has succeeded in rendering the Battle Royale computers useless & providing them with a possible escape - but unfortunately in addition to that he & his associates were found out by Kiriyama & shot dead.

It soon turns out Kiriyama, Shuya, Noriko & Kawada are the last four standing - & in a shoot out, Kawada even overcomes Kiriyama - only to tell Shuya & Noriko he will kill them as well, only having used them as his departure ticket all along ...

As he hears 2 shots, Kištano automatically assumes Kawada has killed his companions - with the computer hacked by Mimura before his demise, Kitano has no longer access to the surveillance cameras -, dismisses his soldiers & welcomes the winner of the game, Kawada. But to his surprise, Shuya & Noriko turn up, too, & they are more than a little pissed & unwilling to take his bad sick jokes lightly - & consequently shoot him when he threatens them with a water pistol (Kitano's death scene is priceless). As the trio leaves the island, Kawada dies from his injuries, the other 2 go underground, wanted for murder ...


Back in the 70's, director Kinji Fukasaku gained acclaim & notoriety for making some seminal yakuza movies (most notably Jingi Naki Tatakai/Battles without Honour & Humanity: The Yakuza Papers [1973] or Jingi no Hakaba/Graveyard of Honour [1976]), but since at least the 80's his career has been on decline, with his movies, while sometimes quite entertaining, being nothing more than standard genre fare.

So who would have thought that, at the tdawn of a new millenium, this man would deliver this uniquely bleak, cynical satire, that despite its blunt & silly plot stays intelligent & thoughtful throughout, making it the best antiutopian sci-fi-movie of its time ? What actually makes this movie work quite as well as it does is not its thought-provoking concept itself but the fact that it's packaged in a nice action-story that keeps things going at fast speed, with violence & gore aplenty to keep things interesting - which is more than one might say about quite a few action-flicks.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




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