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Reviewed by: Zombie Boy

Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku, Kenta Fukasaku

Tatsuya Fujiwara
Aki Maeda
TarŰ Yamamoto

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What's it about
The classic Japanese film about middle school students forced Ė by the government Ė to slaughter each other on an island arena is given the four-disc Blu-Ray treatment here.
Is it good movie?
BATTLE ROYALE is a very popular film amongst horrorphiles, so donít everyone get all up in arms when I say the film is sort of a mess. I love it just as much as you, but itís all over the map. First off, it is never believable that Japanese society has so come undone that the government deems it a good idea to take a random class of youngsters, drug them, bus them to a secret military installation, and force them to fight to the death. Likewise, if the opening scene is of heavy media coverage of the current winner of BR, why are the students so shocked to learn of its existence? Itís ostensibly been televised for years.

But those quibbles aside, the meat of the movie is excellent. Just the very concept of young teenagers playing out their cliques, petty squabbles, and hormonal anxieties in actual wholesale slaughter is deliciously perverse. And writer/director Fukasakuís glee in showing children killing themselves, and others, by the droves is infectious, in a worrying way. But above all else, it is the distinct personality imbued into each of the 42 ďcontestants,Ē not to mention the ďproctor,Ē their former teacher Kitano, that ultimately gives the movie its impact. No matter how twisted the concept, if you donít care about the characters itís all for nothing.

Which is what is so distressing about the sequel, BATTLE ROYALE: REQUIEM, which is also included in this set. Itís not really a bad movie, but itís 10% histrionic melodrama, 10% preaching, and 90% battle scenes. I mean, just endless gun-waving, camo-wearing hordes. Explosions, gunfire, and blood sprays. When the action does take a breather, itís usually for proselytizing, fist bumps and stiff upper lips, and an assembly line of maudlin, protracted death scenes. At 131 minutes, a good deal of this film could have been excised. While it would not have made it a better film, it would have made it easier to sit through.

On a final note, the first BR is presented here in both its theatrical and directorís cut versions (on two separate discs, for some reason). Itís a difference of about eight minutes, and the extra footage is just some scenes of a basketball game, as well as a skootch of backstory for a particularly nasty student and a few dream sequences. Not any extra gore, as I sort of expected there to be. Oh well.
Video / Audio
Video: This High-Def presentation is absolutely superb. Itís crisp and clear, and pops off the screen. That can be something of a hindrance for some of the CGI blood effects, which were not designed to be seen with the clarity Blu-Ray can achieve, but once again itís a small quibble. Oh, and for some reason the special features disc is a regular DVD, not a Blu-Ray.

Audio: The music is a big part of these films, which both boast a heavily orchestrated, and totally awesome, score by Masamichi Amano . Once you hear the BR theme song, youíll definitely never forget it. And you will hear it in all its glory with these Dolby True HD audio tracks (only Japanese, with only English subtitles, across the board).
The Extras
The Making of Battle Royale: This is a 50-minute documentary. The good news is, it is quite comprehensive. It has copious behind the scenes footage, and takes a special interest in showing the 42 young adults who essayed the students forces to kill their friends to survive. The bad news is, the subtitles are a little spotty. Itís especially worth a watch If you want a pretty rigorous insight into Fukasakuís directing style.

Battle Royale Press Conference: A quick 12-minutes of the main cast and the director fluffing a room full of journalists.

Instructional Video: Birthday Addition: This is an adorable birthday card to director Fukasaku done in the style of the instructional video in the film, done by the same actress.

Audition and Rehearsal Footage: Just what it sounds like. Itís funny to watch the same action from the film, but with the kids wearing street clothes.

Special Effects Comparison Featurette: A series of effects from the film, both kills visual effects, shown as their principal elements, then composited together for the final shot. : Tokyo International; Film Festival 2000: Cast and crew fluffing a film festival audience this time.

Battle Royale Documentary: This is essentially an EPK. Shots from the film overlaid with interview snippets with the primary cast and crew.

Basketball Scene Rehearsals: This is obviously a rehearsal for the basketball scene that plays a much larger part in the directorís cut, but is pretty much just the cast, you know, playing basketball together. There just happens to also be a camera there.

Behind the Scenes Featurette: This appears to be footage culled from the longer Making of piece that kicks off this special features disc. But itís always funny to watch Fukasaka berate the cast.

Filming On-Set: Yet another ten minutes of some behind the scenes footage. This one focuses just a little more on actual set work.

The special features disc is rounded out with the original theatrical trailer, a TV spot for this special edition, and one featuring about two second of Quentin Tarantino saying how much he loves the film.

On a side note: not one single mention of the sequel anywhere on this disc.
Last Call
This is an impressive setÖon the surface. Yes, the film looks and sounds amazing, and the packaging is very cool. It is designed like a textbook, with each ďpageĒ being a separate disc. But why four discs? Did the theatrical and directorís cut versions each need their own disc? My thought is that a two disc special edition didnít sound as cool, or as pricey, as a four disc edition. And the special features disc, while certainly chocked full of titles, gets really repetitive, really quickly. Do you need BATTLE ROYALE on Blu-Ray? Undoubtedly. Do you need this edition? Only if you get it for a good price.
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