Saturday, June 28, 2014

Battle Royale SE Director's Cut

Battle Royale SE Director's Cut (2000)
Movie rating: 9/10
DVD rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1/10/2003
Running Time: 2 hours 2 minutes
Rating: NR
Distributor: Korea - Starmax Co., Ltd.
List Price: $35.95
Disc Details
Special Features: Widescreen anamorphic format
Chapter selection
Region 0 (all regions)
2 disk boxed set
Featurette: Auditions
Featurette: Making of Special Edition
Featurette: Birthday party
Featurette: CGI effects
Featurette: Tokyo Film Festival coverage
Featurette: WowWow TV special
Featurette: Memorial photo gallery
Featurette: Orchestra recording
Theatrical trailers
"Movie is a War" trailer
DVD Trailer
TV spot
Promotional art gallery
Video Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Languages: Japanese (DTS 5.1)
Japanese (Dolby Digital 2.0)Surround

Subtitles: Korean, English.
Captions: No
Casing: 2-Disc Keep Case

I became aware of the film "Battle Royale" when I did research for director Kinji Fukasaku's obituary in January of this year. I immediately became obsessed with seeing this movie. This past weekend at the Wonderfest2003 festival in Louisville, Kentucky, I picked up an import DVD from the good folks at Wild and Wooly Video.

"Battle Royale" works on so many different levels that I could write several reviews. Fukasaku's movie works as a political satire, a black comedy, an action epic, a science fiction thriller, a moving drama and a fascist manifesto. How you react to this movie will have a lot to do with the strength of your stomach. "Battle Royale" is a violent film in which 9th grade students are forced to kill each other. The images are disturbing, not for their graphic nature, but because these are our children committing the mayhem. "Battle Royale" is an artistic work of pure genius.

At the turn of the millennium, Japan is in shambles. The economy has hit rock bottom. The nation has been plunged into a depression that rivals the Great Depression of the 1930s. Children are boycotting schools by the hundreds of thousands. The 1960s catch phrase "Don't trust anyone over 30" seems to be the law of the Japanese children. The adults of Japan have come to distrust and fear their own kids. Something has to be done.

In response to this youthful anarchy, the government passes the 'Battle Royale Millennium Education Act.' Once a year, a 9th grade class is picked by random lottery. The children are transported to a deserted island. Each is fitted with a necklace that will explode if tampered with. Each student is given a duffle bag with some food, water and a weapon. The rules are simple: anything goes. The kids are released onto the island. They have three days to kill each other. If at the end of three days, there is more than one child alive, all of the necklaces will detonate. The sole survivor will be allowed to reenter society with (hopefully) a new respect for their elders and the skills it they will need to become a successful adult!

"Battle Royale" is a wild ride that will challenge you from the very first frame. I've watched this movie four times so far and have seen something different each time. I've laughed, cringed and almost cried. Kinji Fukasaku's direction is masterful. His action sequences are handled as deftly as the best work of John Woo. (Go ahead and start sending me the hateful e-mails for that one right now!) Japanese Icon Beat Takeshi stars as Kitano, Class B's former 7th grade teacher. Kitano retired once the students started boycotting the classes. The straw that broke the camel's back for Kitano was a stab wound inflicted by Nobu (Yukihiro Kotani). Mr. Takashi preps his former students for the trial before them with sardonic glee. When one female student whispers during his presentation, he throws a knife into her forehead. "I'm sorry," Kitano says as he pulls the blade from the dead girl’s face. The teacher has his class's attention. Kitano is aided in this orientation of death by a hilarious video starring a perky cheerleader type is a sexy military outfit. The scene is hilarious, sarcastic and chilling at the same time.

"Battle Royale" works in large part due to the magnificent performances by the huge cast of young performers. Tatsuya Fujiwara plays the male lead Shuya. Shuya's mother ran off and his father committed suicide. Shuya will continue to try and fight and grow into an adult even though no one has given him any guidance. Aki Maeda plays the female lead Noriko. Noriko is the girlfriend of Nobu and the object of strange admiration from teacher Kitano. The beautiful and sexy Kou Shibasaki delivers a standout performance as the tragic and lethal Mitsuko. Ms. Shibasaki has great screen presence. I'd learn to speak Japanese if I had half a chance with her!

"Battle Royale" is based on the novel by Koshun Takami. The director's son Kenta adapted the novel for the screen. Fukasaku's script is surprisingly poignant. The children in this film deal with the horror of either killing or being killed in very serious ways. The script examines all possibilities and reactions to such a predicament. The young actors rise to the material and turn "Battle Royale" into a powerful piece of art.

The Disc
Outstanding film. Great picture and sound. While the movie includes English subtitles, for some reason the extras are only subtitled in Korean!

Picture Quality: 10/10
This limited edition import boasts a wonderful transfer. The picture is sharp and crisp throughout. There are no delineation problems, shimmering or softness around the edges. The color schemes in the movie vary from scene to scene. The deliberate visual choices enhance the film's atmosphere. Wonderful rich colors. Several scenes are shot in muted tones. The colors in those scenes are also excellent. A visually exciting film that sets mood and atmosphere with shadows, light and color.

Sound Quality: 10/10
Masamichi Amano's rousing score received one of the seven nominations (including Best Picture and Director) that "Battle Royale" received from the Award of the Japanese Academy. My advice is to turn your home theater system up very loud when you are on the main menu. Amano's Wagnerian score blasts forth in the first seconds of the film with angelic highs and sweeping middle and low notes. The music pulls you into this epic film. The DTS track is fantastic as if the 2.0 surround. No distortion. Rich, full tones throughout. Whether it's Amano's music or the sound of automatic gunfire, the sound is excellent.

Easter Eggs:
No Easter Eggs found during review.

Extra Features: ?/10
I don't know how to rate the extras because I don't speak Japanese or read Korean. I don't understand why the folks who made this DVD would add English subtitles to the movie itself but leave them out of the extras. (Is my American arogance showing?) I did watch all of the extras. Some are enjoyable even without an understanding of what is being said.

The CGI featurette shows you the many layers of several composite shots. I didn't realize until watching this featurette that many of the bullet hits were done with CGI rather than squibs.

The Memorial and Promotional Art galleries are photo montages set to Mr. Amano's wonderful music. Speaking of the music, there is a great featurette concerning the movie's orchestration. It can be enjoyed for the music alone.

The "WowWow TV special" is an extended multimedia trailer that is visually and aurally exciting. This featurette can be enjoyed for the visuals alone. I wish I could have understood what was being said, but I'll just have to wait for an American version to be released.

The lack of English subtitles really hurts during the "Making of," "Birthday Party" and "Tokyo Film Festival" featurettes. The only English spoken on the second 'Special Features' disk is an ad Quentin Tarantino did praising the movie.

The Final Word:
"Battle Royale" is an important movie that offers many things to the open-minded viewer. Those who can't see past the violence should stay away. For those willing to take a risk, "Battle Royale" is a challenging and fulfilling movie experience.

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