Batoru rowaiaru [Battle Royale] (2000)

(Netflix Streaming, July 2015) The problem with infamous movies is that by the time you see them, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with a big “that’s it?”.  So it is that I have heard about Battle Royale for almost fifteen years, but seeing it now only highlights how the hype is better than the source.  The shocking premise is having high-schoolers compete in a deadly tournament until only one remains, and pretty much the point of the film is ultraviolence by/on young people.  Needless to say, this isn’t as shocking today now that The Hunger Games has entered the pop-culture lexicon.  It really doesn’t help that Battle Royale doesn’t make any sense.  I never thought I’d say nice things about The Hunger Games’ world-building (which is terrible) but it’s at least better than the non-existent one in here.  (ie; we’re supposed to believe that Battle Royale was created as a social response, but the rest of the world looks identical, and it’s practically impossible to believe that Battle Royale, sprung forth without antecedents, would actually solve anything.)  But of course the point here is exploitative violence, not social extrapolation.  And once you get over the premise (again; thank you Hunger Games) there isn’t much more left.  It’s tough to distinguish actors when they’re identically dressed, let alone care for them.  There’s an ex-teacher subplot that barely makes sense. (I suspect that it comes from earlier rougher iterations of the script, and should have been removed once the rationale was clearer.) The film lives for its graphic death sequences, but the connecting tissue couldn’t be less interesting.  In short, I’m feeling neither impressed nor pleased by the result, and as my repeated references to the latter derivative Hunger Games suggest, I do not hold Battle Royale in any sort of awe.  Perhaps, someday, someone will do something interesting with the concept.

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