Tuesday, 13 October 2009



I'll be honest - I never really got the original Battle Royale. As an exploitation movie centred around exploding heads and young women firing machine guns at each other while in school uniforms, it's kind of interesting and entertaining and disreputable fun, but the narrative reasons behind it all didn't really make a lot of sense.

Battle Royale II: Requiem, however, makes even less sense. The movie opens, in a manner which I suppose is intended to be provocative, with the blowing up of two skyscrapers in a city centre - an act courtesy of a revolutionary/terrorist youth organisation formed by the two survivors of the first film. In response, a class of misfits is brought in and forced to become a paramilitary outfit designed to storm the organisation's island stronghold. Strangely, the class includes the daughter of the teacher from the first movie, and she's actually registered online to take part in the BR programme. And after a reprise of the lecture bit from the first movie, they're fitted out with camouflage gear, exploding collars and high-powered weaponry. At which point the directors, Kinji and Kenta Fukasaku, basically restage the opening reel of Saving Private Ryan, but with teenagers.

There's a lot of violence, a lot of death (even if some of the exploding heads are done with obvious CGI), and a lot of eye-rolling overacting and philosophical musing out loud. It's kind of interesting but it does go on too long and it basically doesn't answer the central questions: if the government forces know where these people are, why don't they just carpet bomb the island and raze every building on it to the ground? Rather than send in the Japanese equivalent of the SAS in, why is it deemed a better idea to pressgang a bunch of delinquents, outcasts and weirdos into service and then escort them to a statistically certain death on a suicide mission they've no faith in?

It's fundamentally a silly idea and it's hard to take seriously a leader whose war is against grown-ups. Not capitalism, not the West, not organised religion (of whatever stripe) - but grown-ups. When he's in a tirade against the grown-ups it sounds less like a terrifying revolutionary manifesto and more like the Molesworth books gone spectacularly wrong. The film isn't a disaster: there's plenty of action, and I like the ending. But the blatant lift from Saving Private Ryan and the silliness ultimately count against it.


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