ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Battle Royale (2000)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Starring:
Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara)
Noriko (Aki Maeda)
Kitano (Takeshi Kitano)
Kawada (Taro Yamamoto)
PLOT-CRUNCH
With the unemployment rate and youth delinquency count rising in Japan, the government passes a new law called the “BR-Act” where each year a class of 9th graders (14- to 15-year olds) are chosen at random, dropped on a remote island, given various weapons and ordered to kill each other off. The last boy/girl standing gets to go home. Don’t forget your lunchbox!
THE LOWDOWN
"Today's lesson is: you kill each other off till there's only one left. Nothing's against the rules"--- Kitano

Ouch, that hurt; talk about harsh! "Battle Royale" lives up to its rep and whooped my ass like an unwanted step child. This bitter pill sucked me in early on with its intrigue and proceeded to ruin me repeatedly with its main deadly sucker punch: these are kids killing themselves. And I don’t mean 20-something actors pretending to be 15...I’m talking real 15 year olds slaughtering each other relentlessly. To make things more brutal; the film doesn’t discriminate for a second; girl and boys get maimed equally. But the odd thing is: Fukasaku managed to make all of this politically incorrect exploitation jive extremely entertaining as well.

Seeing young teenage Asian girls in plaid skirts getting bloodily mowed down by a machine gun is not usually my idea of fun times at the Circus. But for some odd reason (that only my shrink can figure out), I still couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It sure helped that the action scenes were masterfully handled, and that the suspense/tension was laid on thick. All of that engaged me 100% percent into the proceedings while at the same time, making me feel a tad ashamed for getting so many sick kicks out of them. Shite…wait till you see the key schoolgirl shootout! Holy crap! Was it unsettling? Yes. But it was also a well executed action scene that had me on the edge of my seat! That set piece was actually the highlight of the film for me.

On a character level, the film does what it can with its 40+ characters. I didn’t find the dialogue too insightful. It’s very limited and the subtitles on my copy of the film were hard to read. The mass of players were also fairly stereotypical but in this instance, it actually worked in the film’s favor. Since its obviously impossible for this movie to develop everybody at length; giving them a “type” gave me enough juice to care when they bit the bullet. Shuya (Fujiwara) and Noriko (Maeda) are the film’s main character anchors having the most screen time on their side. The fact that they stuck together and tried to avoid fighting also made them more endearing.

The flick also tossed a couple of priceless psycho “villains” in there that rocked my palace. Like that crazy mofo exchange student with the Uzi; fuck me man...that dude didn’t give a flying fuck! I can’t count how many schoolgirls this guy went rat-tat-tat on! I also grooved on the cold, devious heartless bitch character that had ZERO qualms when it came to killing her classmates. Her psycho ways actually turned me on! Go figure! And then there was Kitano (Kitano) the school teacher; I still haven’t got this dude totally figured out, but he had me by the jewels every time he popped onscreen. Now that’s presence!

The small emotional human touches also helped make the insanity more gripping. Seeing everybody’s different reactions to the circumstance was quite gripping and although a tad overused, I still appreciated how some victims’ revealed their hidden feelings to their murderers before buying the farm. I also dug the flashbacks to better, more “normal” times, showing some of the students in a standard environment...clashing drastically on a visual and emotional level with their present state. NICE! I actually would’ve liked more moments like that.

The film does inject some dark humor in its twisted game as well. The instruction video which the class watches before entering the war zone for example, has some chipper cheerleader-like gal explaining in a very enthusiastic fashion the rules of battle. Talk about a demented and out-of-line reel! We also get some situational humor throughout (the various useless weapons) and a morbid score-card that keeps us up to date on the body count. To be honest, I didn’t laugh much. The violence being tossed my way drowned out any chuckles I could’ve spat out. Sorry, but when I see little girls getting butchered...me no be smiling. I still admire the cleverness of those “humorous” aspects though.

On a negative note, I did feel that the film ran a little too long and that the ending was a little too “tongue in cheek” for my liking. I mean, after everything I just witnessed, the last thing I wanted was humor! But the film’s biggest flaw is its message and the reasons behind the madness not being entirely clear. What was this movie trying to say again? How does the state of this society justify a horrible game like this? Was this all a metaphor for the leap to the ugliness that is adulthood? Was it about the loss of innocence? The treacherous nature we can take if put in the right/wrong environment? Any deep meaning in the movie didn’t resonate with me and was easily drowned out by the machine gun noises and the blood splashes.

But in the end, "Battle Royale" wound up being a very memorable watch. It doesn’t pull any punches, is very well directed, sports some gnarly ideas (loved the explosive collars), offers a couple of nice plot twists and will most likely stay with me for a while. This is a gutsy movie! Let’s hit that island, class! We got some killing to do!
GORE
Did somebody say ketchup? We get a knife in the head, arrow in the throat, exploding neck, slit throat, axe in the head, crotch stabbing, a severed head, a gory schoolgirl shootout, a blown up head and more! Ouch!
ACTING
Tatsuya Fujiwara (Shuya) and Aki Maeda (Noriko) make a good pair and handle their parts well. Takeshi Kitano (Kitano) is captivating as the jaded school teacher. Taro Yamamoto (Yamada) hits all of his various levels like a champ.
T & A
None in the cut of the film that I saw and I didn’t want any either.
DIRECTING
Fukasaku’s direction is mature, restrained and are never stylized to the point of detaching us from the events going down in the film. The cinematography and the editing are also astounding! Top notch!
SOUNDTRACK
We get a powerful score, well used classical music and pop rock tunes.
BOTTOM LINE
Let’s think about it for a moment. If this film had adults in the same scenario, it wouldn’t have had the same impact ("The Running Man" comes to mind). But since we’re dealing with kids, in all their innocence and inexperience, it made everything go down so much rougher. Now I’m sure the flick has something to say, but I just didn’t hear it. So for me, "Battle Royale" wound up being exploitation at its finest. I never EVER dreamed that I’d have a blast watching kids murder themselves, but this flick made it happen with its ballsy premise, tight direction, enthralling action sequences, gorgeous cinematography, potent gore and its overall huge set of kanakas between its legs. Next time I see a class of school girls in plaid skirts…I’LL RUN FOR MY FUCKING LIFE!
BULL'S EYE
The film is based on Koshun Takami’s popular novel: Battle Royale.

I’ve heard that the book is clearer with its message, which is a social commentary on the competitive nature of the Japanese educational system. I didn’t get that from the movie at all! Then again, I don’t go to Japanese school and don’t know dick on how it is over there.
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12:22AM on 03/20/2012

READ THE BOOK!

I can add little more than what's already been said: Battle Royale is an amazing movie, and certainly one of the best ever made. Hollywood lacks the balls to make this kind of a movie.

Arrow, you said you liked the flashbacks and wanted more of them? Then you MUST get the Director's Cut. Yes, it extends the length of the movie a fair bit, but it doesn't feel like useless filler.

The only real thing I can add here is READ THE BOOK!!! Like the movie, it sinks its hooks into and refuses
I can add little more than what's already been said: Battle Royale is an amazing movie, and certainly one of the best ever made. Hollywood lacks the balls to make this kind of a movie.

Arrow, you said you liked the flashbacks and wanted more of them? Then you MUST get the Director's Cut. Yes, it extends the length of the movie a fair bit, but it doesn't feel like useless filler.

The only real thing I can add here is READ THE BOOK!!! Like the movie, it sinks its hooks into and refuses to let go. It is one of those few novels that is truly hard to put down, and I've found myself rereading it right after finishing it. IT'S THAT AWESOME. Also, much of the characterization that had to be sacrificed for the movie is all in the book. You learn who each student is in excruciating detail.
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12:11PM on 06/20/2006

WOW

Upon hearing about this movie numerous time I finally got a chance to see it. Yesterday. Wow I was blown away...glued to the screen...I almost wanna watch it again, but I want it to settle in for atleast a day..lol...I want to read the book..I want all things and know everything about BATTLE ROYALE! Great movie.
Upon hearing about this movie numerous time I finally got a chance to see it. Yesterday. Wow I was blown away...glued to the screen...I almost wanna watch it again, but I want it to settle in for atleast a day..lol...I want to read the book..I want all things and know everything about BATTLE ROYALE! Great movie.
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12:57AM on 01/24/2006

FANTASTIC

Possibly my favorite movie of all time, Battle Royale grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go for it's entire 2 hours. Powerful stuff.
Possibly my favorite movie of all time, Battle Royale grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go for it's entire 2 hours. Powerful stuff.
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11:43PM on 08/03/2005

If you're going to watch Battle Royale, get the Special Version.

"Battle Royale" (Director's Cut/Special Version)

Plot:
In Japan, set in a near future . . . society has crashed. Kids are violent, kids boycott school . . . you name it. A new law called "The BR Act" is raised, where a group of ninth graders (15-16 year olds) are taken to an island with the orders to kill each other off until only one is left. That's all I'll say.

What I thought:
*note, this is a review of the extended director's cut of the movie*

I watched a movie at about 5 in the
"Battle Royale" (Director's Cut/Special Version)

Plot:
In Japan, set in a near future . . . society has crashed. Kids are violent, kids boycott school . . . you name it. A new law called "The BR Act" is raised, where a group of ninth graders (15-16 year olds) are taken to an island with the orders to kill each other off until only one is left. That's all I'll say.

What I thought:
*note, this is a review of the extended director's cut of the movie*

I watched a movie at about 5 in the afternoon. When it was over, at 7-ish. I was frozen in my seat, looking around unnerved. What the hell had happened here!? Had a movie really grabbed me like this did? Or had someone actually squeezed my balls for two hours. I will never know . . . Did you read that plot? Well, now tell me the truth. Isn't that absolutely and extrmely interesting? The tagline itself, "Would you kill your best friend?" is more thought provoking than 95% of movies today. Thank god for japanese people. I love them.

Everything surrounding "Battle Royale", from the opening "class shot" in the cover (in C's review above), through the actual "BR ACT" symbol to the shocking carnage that begins minutes later, has more emotional impact than anything I had ever seen before. Due to the movie's nature, it's obvious that you are going to relate, you'll relate to SOMEONE in this movie and I guarantee that. Imagine yourself in that situation. Forced to kill your friends, girl/boyfriends, enemies or be killed yourself. There's no way out. What will happen? Here, you find out. The story is so extremely well written that it sinks you in . . . and doesn't let go.

This "Special Version" is 2 hours long. I generally look around outside the screen with a long movie (there are few exceptions) but for some off reason, I couldn't unglue my eyes. I want to know why! Kids (played by kids and one or two young adults) getting shreded to bits is NOT by any means my idea of entertainment. What happened here is, I guess, that I was sucked in and I related. The characters should be a flaw (there's 45-ish of them) and I wouldn't mind much a lack of characterization but the movie is so well executed that it managed to make my heart move. This is some touching shit. And that's where the movie's heart and core lies. The extreme emotional impact (which was lost in the sequel) is what made this movie so powerful and controversial. I had a lumpy throat the entire way through and I'm not overhyping any of this. I won't add an extra secion for characters because simply put: they are amazing, you might mistake identities in your first watch but in the second watch (much needed) you'll know who is who perfectly. Add to that those characters you learn to adore from early on (Nanahara, Noriko, Risato, Kawada to name some) . . . wow.

The story is well written and that's not deniable. While the story should get old and chaff it's great lenght, it never happens. NEVER. Trust me, it isn't easy to kill 40 people and still make the story interesting, this movie never failed to do that. I loved also the rules they apply for the game itself. The collars are genius, the weapons are simply brilliant (you can get an uzi or a plastic hammer . . . good luck). The script never failed to create clever plot twists and turns with a fitting ending.

Again, the japanese can act. I haven't seen cheap japanese acting in my life, seriously (the best being the voice acting in anime finale "End of Evangelion"). This movie is no exception. All these kids show the emotions perfectly, from the fat kid's extreme face of fear, to the extremely desparated girls in the lighthouse, it's all amazing. Good acting put the impact up a notch because these act like real people.

The direction goes from standard to great. While at some parts is very basic, in other parts it's excellent (very fluid). The gritty look fit the story and he did a great job at emulating the character's feelings. He can create tension like a champ and builds momentum at all moments to give a final punch near the end. The added humor should be funny (training video?), it really should but the grizzly happenings didn't make me crack a smile. the classical score was downright perfect and fit the images well.

Gore:
Yowzers!! Slit throats, pickaxe action, slashed corpses, GORY shootouts, knife in the head, beheading, crotch stabbing and much, much more.

Overall Rating:
10/10. This movie was a perfect equivalent of a painful kick in the balls. I adored it to hell. Emotional as hell, creepy, gory, fun for all the right reasons and in the end, just one unforgettable experience.
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7:55PM on 08/03/2005

Amazing

One of the best movies I have seen in a long time. This movie always makes me think about what I would do if put it this situation. If you haven't seen this movie, you need to.
One of the best movies I have seen in a long time. This movie always makes me think about what I would do if put it this situation. If you haven't seen this movie, you need to.
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