Saturday, March 11, 2006

Battle Royale II

If you haven't seen "Battle Royale I," then this won't make much sense. In fact, I don't know anyone who has seen the first part of this series. This series from director Kinji Fukasaku (Tarantino alert) throws us into a future Japan where a class of students under the age of 20 are randomly selected by the government and stranded on a mountainous island with a cache of weapons, given only the directive to slaughter each other until only one stands. The rationale is there are too many children, and the herd needs to be thinned. (It's based on a crazily insanely popular novel and manga line.) The kids of Japan learn a brand new saw: Don't trust anyone over 20.

The Japanese seem to have no compunctions about depicting child brutality -- and I mean viscerally depicting it -- and I think that's a credit to the national culture. The Japanese seem to understand that kids can't be induced to shoot up schools just by watching a Wes Craven flick. A movie like this would NEVER be made stateside, which is why this is prolly the only J-horror franchise that won't be exploited by Hollywood remakes. In fact, the "Battle Royale" series are only available as imports, so good luck even getting a copy yourself.

"BR" ends with our young heroes Shuya Nanahara and Nakagawa Noriko escaping the island, thus becoming freedom fighters/terrorists dedicated to overthrowing the world of adults. "BR II" is about a new class of students conscripted brutally to attack and kill the terrorists, three years after the events of the first film.

That's it, pretty much. Throats are blown away by explosive necklaces (failsafe devices), foreheads are shot, mines are stepped on... people die fairly excruciating deaths, augmented by a great degree of CGI gore. The highlight of this one is the beach landing on the terrorists' island, shot by Kinji Fukasaku (and son Kenta Fukasaku, who assumed the duties after dad during filming) to look like Operation Overlord on Normandy.

Is it good? Not nearly as cracking and original as the first. The pacing is all fucked up, and the actors seemed poorly motivated to offer much grit. The best performance was delivered by Ai Maeda as Shiori Kitano, sensei Beat Takeshi's daughter, who seeks vengeance on the terrorists for killing her father from the first movie.

If y'all saw the first and didn't go for it, you're not required to see the sequel -- this one is strictly extracurricular.