A Japan increasingly concerned with spiralling urban violence makes an example of troublesome teens by stranding them on a desert island and forcing them to fight to the death.
Kinji Fukasaku’s magnificently tasteless satire on reactionary politics could be considered the logical conclusion of reality TV, the concept being a kind of cross between The Running Man and Lord Of The Flies. All the usual High School shenanigans are involved, but the introduction of lethal weapons throws the cliques, crushes and rivalries into a whole new light. The young cast are all very watchable and Fukusaku was a veteran of Japanese Yakuza films and therefore a dab hand at stylised violence; the unrelenting drama and action of a type of slasher film where everyone is the killer means that it’s virtually impossible to get bored. The sentimentality can get a little heavy handed in places but Takeshi Kitano’s surreal and sardonic host pops up at strategic intervals to effortlessly steal the show and arrest the schmaltz before it goes too far.
Battle Royale is certainly not as profound as it thinks it is, but it is a wonderfully entertaining and unique film that’s destined to become a cult classic. But I would avoid the dismal sequel – which was completed by his son after Fukusaku’s death – like the plague.