Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tatsuya Fujiwara, Mayomi Ugasaki, Tokichi Hyari, Taro Yamamoto, Aki Maeda, Kou Shibasaki, Masanobu Ando, Chiaki Kuriyama, Takeshi Kitano
Written by: Kenta Fukasaku, based on a novel by Koushun Takami
Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 114
Date: 16/12/2000

Battle Royale (2000)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Days of Mayhem

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The great Japanese exploitation filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku (The Green Slime, Yakuza Graveyard) was nearly seventy when he made this masterpiece, and it turned out to be his final completed film.

The gloriously sick and twisted story takes place on an island where an annual competition has begun. A band of teenage students have been kidnapped and fitted with strange metal collars. They are told that they have three days to kill everyone; the final one standing gets to go home. If they refuse, the collars will simply blow up.

Everyone is given different weapons; some of the kids try the aggressive route while others try to figure other ways out.

None other than Takeshi Kitano (a.k.a. "Beat" Takeshi) stars as the kids' former teacher who "hosts" the game (and has one of the greatest death scenes ever filmed).

The movie is endlessly entertaining, by turns gory and hilarious, disturbing and exciting. Fukasaku keeps exactly the right tone, never slipping into harshness, seriousness or preachiness. (Unlike The Hunger Games, which resembles this film, Battle Royale leaves the message as a subtext.)

It never received an official U.S. theatrical release, but it has become a deserved cult classic on DVD. Sequels followed, a director's cut was released, and a remake is threatened. Quentin Tarantino is a huge fan, and paid tribute by casting Chiaki Kuriyama in his Kill Bill - Vol. 1 (2003).

In 2012, Anchor Bay gave the movie its first official DVD and Blu-Ray release, and even a few theatrical showings(!). The company has outdone itself. Fans can purchase a single-disc DVD or Blu-Ray, or a super-deluxe four-disc set. This includes the 122-minute director's cut, the 114-minute theatrical cut, and the ill-fated 2003 sequel; on this latter, Fukasaku began it and then died partway into production. His son finished it, and the result is generally considered a mess. The fourth disc is a DVD, even in the Blu-Ray box set. It contains tons of extras, including a making-of featurette, new trailers, and more.

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