My how the times have changedÖ
Now that the oddly similar THE HUNGER GAMES is tearing up the box office, the time has finally come for BATTLE ROYALE to get an official North American release from Anchor Bay. Despite its lack of commercial availability, BATTEL ROYALE has still garnered a huge cult following in North America. I saw it on an imported VCD about ten years ago, and since then itís been freely traded on the net. However, itís never been available in as sharp a form as it is here, with Blu-ray being the perfect way to rediscover this chaotic, subversive classic.
I really love BATTLE ROYALE. It works on all kinds of levels. Itís a brilliant social critique, not only of Japan, but also of our own western values, with it correctly predicting the devotion to shitty, morally bankrupt reality TV. It feels like the work of a young man, but BATTLE ROYALE was actually the final film to come from renowned Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku, who was seventy nine when this was filmed. The characters are exceedingly likable, and the tragedy of the competition is not ignored. The bad guys are a lot more three-dimensional here than the ones in HUNGER GAMES, with Beat Takeshiís burnt-out teacher, turned blood-crazed maniac being a real standout. I also liked the BATTLE ROYALE veterans, with the good one sporting a cool, Christopher Walken-circa THE DEER HUNTER head-sash, covering a horrific scar he got in his first go round. I should also mention that the action is absolutely hardcore, and brilliantly directed, with all manner of carnage coming out here. Thereís stabbings, beatings, and gunfights galore- including a classic shootout, where a roomful of cheerful, bubbly teenage girls all of a sudden get gripped by paranoia and start killing each other.
The inevitable sequel is not quite as successful, with it being little more than a curio or companion piece. Running well-over two hours, it was a quick cash-in (Fukasakuís son directed it after his father passed) but BATTLE ROYALE was a one-off, although itís nice than Anchor Bay included it here.