(Review originally written at 21 March 2009)

All you need for a great movie is a good and original concept. At least that is what this movie suggests. It's daring and unique concept makes this an original movie for sure but it handles its concept also with lots of class and depth, making this simply a brilliant Japanese movie from the late Kinji Fukasaku.

Out of all Japanese movies I've seen so far, this is also the one that is the most Americanized. Normally this isn't a very good sign when a 'foreign' movie gets made in Hollywood-style but this movie is truly an exception to this. The fact that this movie feels Hollywood like is also a reason why this movie is perfectly watchable and accessible, even for those who aren't at custom with movies from outside of the United States.

But however this really doesn't mean that this movie is your average typical Hollywood work. Quite on the contrary. The movie has a quite daring concept, that perhaps also sounds silly and unlikely at first but in the movie gets delivered as a real realistic and effective one.

The movie can be seen as a protest against modern (Japanese) society and perhaps also the media. It gives "Batoru rowaiaru" also some more depth with its story and themes. It's not just its concept that makes this a great and original movie but also truly the handling of it all.

The main concept is very simple but at the same time very intriguing. It raises some real moral questions about what you would do when you get into a situation like this. The story is about an average Japanese ninth-grade school class who are being forced to kill each other on a remote island in a freaky death-match, in which the only survivor after 3 days gets to get back home. If more than 1 person is still alive after 3 days, everyone dies. This all due to the Battle Royale Act, that is called to life due to the highly increasing insubordination of the Japanese youth, that causes the Japanese economy to decrease rapidly.

The movie has lots of different characters in it, of which some have less problems with killing their friends than others. Some play the game really fanatically, while others team up, in order to survive longer and also to try and find a way to end the game without having to kill their friends. Everyone plays their own game and no matter what their intentions and morals are, all are being forced to do something against their own nature, due to the very unusual circumstance they find themselves in.

The diversity of characters also ensures that the movie never gets boring or 'more of the same' all of the time. The movie has some real great characters in it that are big movie stereotypes but really work out well for this type of movie. It gives lots of different characters room but never without loosing focus on its two main characters. The fact that most youngsters are being played by real teenagers also helps. It increases the credibility and also makes it easier to identify with characters.

Of course the movie is also filled with violence, done Japanese-style. The movie is pretty straight-forward with its violence, from pretty early on already into the movie. Again, this also really adds to the realism and overall credibility of the movie. For Japanese standards its also a pretty expensive and big looking movie with its action, even though the movie only cost a mere $4,500,000 to make. Due to its nature the movie never became a big success outside of Japan, since no distributors dared to buy the movie and release it in different countries. In Japan the movie remains one of the most successful box office successes and the movie has also really founds its way outside of the Japanese boundaries and the movie now days is known in most countries and considered to be a cult-classic already.

One of the most daring and original movies I've seen in a while.


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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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