The first time I saw Battle Royale was only earlier this year. Most people who hear that respond with shock. Pretty much anyone I know who is familiar with this movie automatically assumed I knew this forwards and backwards. But it's only with its association with the Hunger Games (more on that in a bit) that it finally got a US BluRay/DVD release. I think this is the only foreign flick on my list, or at least the only non-English one (if you ignore a good chunk of Basterds).
Why does my crowd associate me with this film? That would be the uber violent premise. Every year one class of middle school-ish kids is selected to particpate in the Battle Royale. They are dropped on a deserted island with minimal supplies and left to fight to the death until only one is left standing. It's meant to be a metaphor on the corporate world, and how as soon as school's out these kids are just dumped into the cuthtroat corporate world. Yes, the metaphor adds depth and a whole other level to this, but I'm just in it for the violence. Well, not just the violence. I love how dark this film is. It is one of the most messed up pieces of cinema, mostly due to the age of the characters. Funny how many of the darkest most disturbing films I've ever seen have ended up on this list.
And now, for an amusing antecdote. This summer, I was hanging out with a friend, and we decided to watch Battle Royale. There was beer. And pizza. And more beer. Somehow, this evolved into a drinking game: drink every time somebody dies. Well, um, there's 40 kids in the class. And we were counting deaths in dream sequences and flashbacks as well. We each killed 4 beers in the 2 hours of screentime. I will say no more on the subject other than it ranks amongst the least smart things I've ever done that involves alcohol.
Back to why I love this movie. It goes beyond the kid on kid killing. There's a twisted humor to it too. The training video is one of my favorite parts. I've seen enough violence films that I don't disbelieve much of it, but the peppy announcer just blows my mind. Somehow, that's the thing that shocks me. I also really like the idea of the mystery weapons. Each kid is given a bag with some basic provisions and one weapon/tool. Some luck out with axes and knives and such. Others not so much with binoculars or a potlid.
Something else that is fantastic about this film is that you get so many stories about the various characters. It takes a while to figure out who's gonna be sticking around for the long haul, but in the mean time you're made to care about so many of them. There's the kids who band together, and the ones who fly solo. The ones that try to be peacable, and the ones that wildly attack. While the through plot is pretty simple, the character development around it is much more complex than you'd expect. Keep an eye out for Chiaki Kuriyama, but you prolly know her better as Gogo from Kill Bill. Also, when watching this, see if you can guess which character my previously mentioned movie buddy and I nicknamed Kim Kardashian. Of course, the K sisters wish they had a fraction of the badassitude that this babe has.
By now you've prolly picked up a bit on the Hunger Games vibe, huh? Well the fact that I mentioned it earlier prolly had your gears turning a bit. Supposedly Suzanne Collins wasn't aware of this film (or its original book) when writing Hunger Games, but from the basic storyline you can easily see the parallels. Before you cry rip off, much of the details are different, and the themes are in completely separate ballparks as well. Not quite apples and oranges, but maybe oranges and tangerines? I don't know fruit.