Mine is now the supreme pleasure of having viewed the Japanese cult hit Battle Royale. The premise goes like this: In the not too distant future, the Japanese economy has fallen into decline. Unemployment has skyrocketed, and the subsequent rise of unruly, disobedient youth causes the government to concoct the Millennium Educational Reform Act, a.k.a. the BR Act (“Battle Royale Act,” get it?). This act mandates the random selection of one class of students each year, which is then transported to a deserted island, and given three days to fight to the death in a massive free-for-all until one student emerges victorious, lest the powers-that-be kill them all via the nifty remote-controlled explosive collars the students have been fitted with. No, this doesn’t make a lick of sense. Would you have it any other way?
This is a fun, fun movie, and not just because a bunch of Japanese teens are running amok on a deserted island against their will, offing each other colorfully with a variety of weapons. That’s an endearing trait, to be sure, but what enhances it is the satirical attention given to their adolescence operating business-as-usual on the battlefield. Allies and enemies are made, personal vendettas persist, and puppy love is the general topic of discussion; all the while, the score cranks the melodrama to 11. The ultra-violent parallels to the otherwise prosaic pitfalls of the high school environment are unmistakable, and delivered in a far more entertaining and absurdist fashion than, say, an episode of “My So-Called Life.”
Battle Royale II was released in Japan just last month. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it makes it over here sooner than later, though I suspect the lingering post-Columbine climate will prove a bit too chilly for even a limited US release.