Set in an alternate world where Japan is a nationalist socialist state and the youth are out of control, Battle Royale is the kind of movie that is so vicious and depraved that an American remake is all but out of the question (though lord knows they’re trying). On route to a field trip, a school bus is gassed and all 50 middle schoolers are kidnapped. The students awake on an island with metal collars strapped around their necks. Their teacher Kitano informs them that they will be participating in this year’s Battle Royale, a government program designed to address unruly kids and strike fear and terror in the hearts of the populace. The rules are explained to them by a bubbly woman on television with the perky enthusiasm that would normally be reserved for children’s toy commercials. Each student is given a map, a flashlight and a weapon (which can range from machine gun to saucepan lid depending on luck of the draw). They then exit the building and the game begins. They must kill one another until there is a sole survivor. If more than one student is alive after three days then the remaining collars will be detonated and their heads will explode. The collars will also detonate if a participant is traveling in one of several periodically announced “danger zones”.
Got it? Now run along and start murdering each other, 14 year old boys and girls. Yes, the very concept can only be described as “fu*ked in the head”. Some kids refuse to fight, some kill themselves, some band together and try to figure a way out of the situation and others, such as the lovely but sadistic Mitsuko Souma will do whatever it takes to survive.
So what can take away from this sick little two hours that detractors have claimed is partly responsible for the delinquency of today’s youth and a contributor to tragedies such as the Virginia Tech Massacre? (On the other hand, Quentin Tarantino recently dubbed Battle Royale his “favorite film since 1992.”) You might argue that it’s a satirical take on the competitive nature of Japanese culture or perhaps you could focus on the Darwinian attitudes that the various students take. One might also put forth the proposition that the Japanese culture seriously represses their people and this repression manifests itself in the form of extreme, horrifically violent films such as this. To me everything about this film is blatantly gratuitous. Ultimately all I really got out of it is what I suspect we already knew - if you force people into a kill or be killed situation, they will either kill or be killed.
So why 4 gretchies? Simple, I'm a sick bastard and I get off on this shit.