So... Battle Royale's premise is that society is struggling through a bad economy and children's complete lack of respect for authority. The solution to this is apparently a randomly selected class participating in a to-the-death Royal Rumble on some remote island. While the event seems to be a big deal with television coverage around winners, it doesn't seem like the class chosen to play has any clue about this. So, how it's supposed to resolve any of the issues that Japan is having, I don't know. Battle Royale is flawed... the plot is a bit wonky and the acting is a bit exaggerated at times. Frankly, I don't care.
The beginning of the film sets the mood... crowds and television crew making a big deal of the winner of the Battle Royale, giving us the image of the bloody young victor, who smiles. This smile instantly made me think of Gogo, from Kill Bill. Interesting enough, Chiaki Kuriyama (who played the part of Gogo), is in Battle Royale... and I guess Gogo was based off of her role in the film, including all the crotch stabbing. Anyway, I liked the intro scene as a mood setter, but it felt disconnected from the rest of the film.
Honestly, I'm sort of uninterested in any themes or social commentary from the movie. I do, however, wish we were given more on how the Battle Royales actually do any good, or what happens to the winners (beyond just surviving and being on TV for a moment). Maybe it was because we never say an connection between the Battle Royale and the outside world beyond the very first scene.. but that made it feel like there really wasn't a point to it all beyond the sport of it. There's a lot of focus on connecting and sacrifice among the children, as well as standing up to abuse of authority. There's certainly a poke at modern education as well. That's all well and good, and they add to what the film is. So, anybody who wants to look further into those, and other, themes can certainly find fuel for that fire.
When it comes down to it, though, I enjoyed Battle Royale for what it is... an entertaining action movie filled with thrills and a dark premise. As odd as it may seem to say about a movie involving kids killing each other... Battyle Royale is a fun movie. The scene that really stands out, for me, is the instruction video. The video itself is fantastic. Her exaggerated excitement and mannerisms are in such conflict with video's subject and the horror the children are starting to feel. Once the interruptions start and Kitano throws the knifes... the back and forth from the kids' fear and disgust to the joyous video plays out well. I was worried that they were going to recite each and every student's name before we got going, and while that did happened, the introductions went well with the announcements throughout the battle.
Once we get into the field, we're greeted with instant action via crossbow. From there it was pretty non stop with the occasional down shifts for characterization and dialogue. It was interesting seeing the interactions between classmates, some friends turned enemy and some acquaintances revealing stronger relationships. I thought seeing how the students reacted in such different ways to the situation they were thrown into was really interesting. Some trying to group together and just happily survive as long as possible, while others more aggressively pushing the action.. be it out of fear or other motivation. Most of the deaths were well executed for how the film was presented, and having such a variety of deaths was important since we knew there had to be around 40 of them. The aforementioned Kuriyama kill of Niida stood out, as well as the showdown between the two most prolific killers, Mitsuko and Kiriyama. It seemed pretty obvious that we'd see Shuya and Noriko get through this, but I was all right with it... as their relationship with Kawada and final showdown with Kitano was satisfying enough.
I mentioned how I heard of the film when Hunger Games first came out and was occasionally accused of ripping off Battle Royale. While we can clearly see the similarity of children killing each other, Battle Royale lacks the standout hero and rebellion. This only makes me wonder happens in the after math of Battle Royale... I doubt it ends with Kitano's death, but there weren't any signs that Shuya and Niroko were going to go on a crusade to put an end to it. Maybe they tackle that in Battle Royale 2, but from what I've seen it's bad to the point of not wanting to find out.
I feel like I'm skipping a ton of things... like the plot issues with the hacking, building bombs, microphones in the collars, etc, so feel free to hit all the points I ignored. But, as I said, I'm okay with it all. Of course, with those things going on, I just can't put this movie in the A range. It was, however, certainly entertaining and kept me interested throughout... enough so to go B+