Battle Royale II – Requiem. One skull.
Rated 18 (UK), Not Rated (US)
Copyright 2003 Toei
(There are so many characters, I am going to concentrate on the main ones.)
Boy #1 Takuma Aoi – The part called for a brooding anti-hero. What we got was a gurning sulk.
Girl #1 Nao Asakura – How did she end up at a school for hoodlums and truants?
Girl #4 Shiroi Kitano – The daughter of the teacher from the first film is here for vengeance.
Shuya Nanahara – Imagine Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket becoming a Jedi. That’s Shuya.
Saki Sakurai – Hotshot sniper.
Mai – The doll-cuddling, bloodstained grinning girl is back!
Riki Takeuchi – Pill-chewing, rugby-playing, grimacing teacher. Mad as a box of frogs and all the better for it.
Kitano – Beat Takeshi! No, he hasn’t come back from the dead again. He appears in a couple of flashbacks.
Leader of the Anti-Terrorist Attack Team – Otherwise known as Man With Pistol. He’s played by the same actor who was Nanahara’s dead father at the beginning of the first film!
Makio Mimura – Sonny Chiba! The guerrilla uncle of Shinji Mimura from the first film appears as a flashback to inspire Nanahara.
It’s been three years since the end of the Battle Royale game that was ‘won’ by Shuya Nanahara and Noriko Nakagawa. Despite the games increasing, Japan is still in the grip of juvenile delinquency, but added to this ongoing outbreak of youth anarchy, a terrorist organisation called Wild Seven, made up of former BR winners and other young resistance fighters, is blowing up skyscrapers in Tokyo with astonishing accuracy and timing, resulting in many deaths. Therefore, the Japanese government, at the end of its tether, comes up with a new game. Battle Royale II. Take an entire class of hopeless children, kit them out with guns and send them in to storm the island.
Now then. As you will have already gathered from the slime rating, I do not like this film. It has a myriad of problems. In fact, it has so many problems, I don’t know whether to explain the plot first or just pile into the wreckage. You know when a film is so utterly stupid it leaves you speechless?
Okay, so let’s start at the beginning. I’m assuming you all know the basics of the BR game, but for those that don’t here it is in a nutshell. Kids are duped into thinking they are going on school trips, gassed whilst on the coach, fitted with detonating collars and taken to an island to be given three days to kill or be killed. If they stray into a danger zone or if more than one kid is alive after the three days, the collars detonate, blowing a hole in the neck. This game is slightly different however. The kids are being sent in to storm the island fortress of the Wild Seven group. The kids, (42 of them split between boys and girls) are also ‘tagged’ together as collar partners. If one partner (say, Boy# 6) dies, the opposite number’s collar (Girl #6) also explodes. This is also true if the two stray more than fifty feet apart from each other. All this is explained in the opening scenes between the kids and their Christ-on-a-unicycle bonkers teacher, who chews pills, pulls faces and writes on a chalkboard. As with the first film, two sacrificial lambs are served up to prove the points – a boy who refuses to fight is shot and his collar partner has a hole blown in her neck whilst crying for her mummy.
This body of information is Major Plot Hole Number One. In the BR universe, Japan is part of a larger totalitarian republic following victory in WWII and, as such, is a dominant superpower. They also know where the island is and they have details of what the fortress looks like (which, as it turns out, is nothing more than scaffolding and pieces of corrugated iron.) I would assume that the sensible course of action would be a sustained bombing campaign with a few squadrons of the Japanese infantry to mop up the rest. What wouldn’t be top of my ideas list would be to send in kids against other kids, against their will, therefore guaranteeing a collusion between the two groups. In addition, if I wanted to operate a successful invasion campaign, I wouldn’t wire the kids up in two’s so as to double the number of any casualties sustained.
One more thing before I continue with the story, and it is Major Plot Hole Number Two, so it is important. There is a scene where the teacher lists countries that have been bombed by the USA in the past fifty years. That is, the past fifty years of this historical period and not the alternate timeline that the film is set in. Still, never mind aye?
Right, now that I have that out of my system, on we go.
So the students are kitted out, wired up and off they go. They approach the island and opt for a beach assault. Their first mission is simply to land, which is not as easy as it sounds given the astonishing accuracy that one of the Wild Seven lot has with a rocket launcher. Bodies are blown sky high, collars are detonated, etc, etc. About half the entire class is wiped out without setting foot on the sand (of course, it would’ve been a quarter had the collars not been connected.) After reaching the beach and dodging the flimsy defences they hunker down and prepare for their second mission.
By the way, if any of this sounds familiar to Saving Private Ryan, you aren’t overreacting. Watch the scene. I’m amazed they weren’t sued.
Having reached something approximating shelter from Wild Seven, the second mission is to get ammunition for their guns. Brilliant idea. Send them on the island carrying guns without ammo and then drop the bullets on their heads. For some reason the helicopter that arrives (swooping past the building being used by Wild Seven) isn’t attacked by the rebels, despite at least one of them being able to hit a moving, tossing, inflatable dinghy from five hundred yards away. Having allowed the kids to tool up, they make their way into the ramshackle defences of the fortress without too much trouble. Cornered in a chamber by the rebels, the kids are ‘captured’.
It doesn’t take long for the inevitable to happen. The kids join the rebels and have their collars deactivated. The only exception is little Kitano who remains hostile to Nanahara for killing her father. Bear in mind, in the first film (and in the flashbacks we see in the film), she hates her father and wishes death upon him. Her motivation; to wear the collar and take part in this suicidal mission just to kill Shuya for killing a man she hated, is baffling.
With the kids now teamed up, the BR organisers do what they should’ve done in the first place and send in some soldiers. Shuya organises Wild Seven and the students into position, but then sportingly lets the military men find positions of cover close to the base before opening fire. These drones are swiftly mopped up (how the hell did Japan win WWII with cretins like this?) giving Shuya enough time to record an Al-Qaeda style video broadcast all over the world. Not long after the video is recorded, missiles attack the base. Not Japanese missiles mind you, as you would expect. American missiles.
Yes, the country that cannot be named (at least not in this film; apart from at the beginning it is referred to euphemistically as ‘that country’) is angry that terrorists are invading the radio waves. It fires a few carefree missiles at the base and then contacts the rattled Japanese Prime Minister who is still in the middle of dressing himself when he appears before the BR staff. He dismisses the BR operation and sends in the rest of the Japanese military to eliminate the students and Wild Seven once and for all. The teacher, disillusioned at being forced to kneel before the US of A, storms off to get changed into his rugby kit (I’ll explain later.) My only thought is why the stupid Prime Minister didn’t do so sooner.
Incidentally, this film was originally going to feature a scene with Quentin Tarantino as the President but he couldn’t do it because of scheduling conflicts. There’s an alternate reality for you to imagine – Quentin Tarantino in the Oval Office.
We’re nearly at the end of the film already. Don’t be fooled by the brevity of this review; this film is interminably long. In brief, more of the Japanese army storm the beaches and the kids/Wild Seven alliance are forced to pull back. The girls (and the children) are withdrawn to an underground mineshaft to escape the island whilst Shuya, a glowering Takuma and Shiroi (who by now has gotten over her father’s death) continue to fight. Other members of Wild Seven fall around them and the mad teacher turns up in his rugby kit to lend his support to them before killing himself with an exploding collar. Shiroi is killed, which just leaves Shuya and Takuma to reinact the ending of Butch Cassidy. The film ends in Afghanistan with all the survivors (and, sadly, Takuma and Shuya) regrouping to continue their assault against the grown-ups of the world.
In case you haven’t noticed, there is an anti-war message pervading this film. Or, more precisely, an anti-American foreign policy message. Unfortunately, whether you agree with the central critique or not, it is articulated with all the intelligence of some college student stoner listening to American Idiot and then trying to be Karl Marx. Even as a bleeding-heart liberal who didn’t support the war in Iraq this film is disrespectful, offensive and stupid, endlessly ramming its ham-fisted message into your face with all the subtly of a spade on fire. In its endless attempts to say America Is Wrong, it doesn’t even care to acknowledge the universe that has been created around the Battle Royale series, leaving huge holes both in the plot and in its own arguments.
I haven’t really talked about the characters, and that’s because the memory is too painful. The acting is AWFUL. Takuma, our male lead, scowls his way through the film and there are constant references to his live-wire temper which is supposed to make him enigmatic and edgy but actually makes him a complete c***. He cannot express anger or emotion without gurning as if he’s having a seizure and he spends most of the film shouting at someone. Nao, his love interest, is bewildering – she attends the same school for dropouts and hoodlums, but she seems to be a model student; butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. She spends the film indulging him in his moods and following him around like a puppy. Shuya, meanwhile, pretends to be a Jedi, offering crap philosophy in robes and shouting at nothing when he isn’t breathing heavily and fondling his gun.
Also; if you thought the first film was bad for deathbed speeches, this film is your ultimate nightmare. No one can die in this film without giving us a few lines with their dying breaths. It literally pads out the film, helping it to a brain-numbling running time of over two hours.
I don’t want to point fingers of blame but Kenta Fukasaku; I’m looking at you. The director of the first film, Kinji Fukasaku, was due to direct (and did manage to oversee one touching scene involving Kitano junior and senior), but tragically died of prostate cancer, turning the rest of the film over to his son. It is very telling that the best scene in the film, by a long way, was the only scene to be directed by Kinji.
Things I Learned From This Movie:
- When shot, the body involuntary turns into a puppet from Thunderbirds (look out around 27mins…)
- The heart doesn’t stop beating until after your closing speech, so take your time to consider your words.
- Involuntary Angry Facial Spasm is a medical condition that needs research into treatment.
- Totalitarian regimes always send forces of children onto battlefields before the main army.
- Wild Seven missed their calling as building surveyors and demolition experts.
- Japan needs to pump more money into RADA-like establishments.
- Girls get hot and moist for sulky, ugly men.
Stuff To Watch Out For:
4mins – “Wanted Nationwide Murderers.” Strangest job advert ever?
13mins – If you squint, it is as if Elvis has been reincarnated… and lost his mind in the process.
28mins – When did she lose her other eye?
33mins – There’s an enemy helicopter dropping ammunition parcels to the invading force and you aren’t thinking to shoot at it?
38mins – If Private Pyle from Full Metal Jacket became a Jedi.
60mins – I think he’s setting his robes alight.
68mins – Nanahara’s cheek is remarkably unbruised considering he has just been punched twice in the face.
84mins – What the hell has the Prime Minister been up to?
90mins – No one tell George Lucas about this scene. He’ll either sue Toei or try and redub it with new AND UNNECCESARY LINES.
95mins – Hup, hup, hup, hup, hup, hup…
110mins – Owch! Pole in the bladder!
117mins – Why has the shooting stopped? Oh yeah, she has a closing speech to get out. She’s finished, there we go!
120mins – Last weapon… except that huge revolver in your hand.