Do you know what they call Hunger Games in Japan?
A Battle Royale with cheese.
Released almost 12 years prior to Suzanne Collin’s crappy rendition, Battle Royale is one of the most insane but entertaining action-packed films to hit the screen. In fact, Quentin Tarantino himself was asked if there was one film that he would have loved to do, which would it be, and he said Battle Royale specifically. It’s funny because Battle Royale genuinely feels like a Tarantino film. Picture a more realistic version of The Hunger Games, minus the future dystopian elements, and put in more Kill Bill-like violence and wha-la, you get Battle Royale.
But let’s set the scene briefly, in case you still need convincing. Every year, there is an event known as Battle Royale which is legally forced by governmental decree. In this event, a class of high-school students is taken to a remote island and given three days to fight to the death until there is one last man standing. Anyone who doesn’t cooperate will be killed instantly because of explosive collars attached to their necks. Everyone gets a personal bag that contains a few rations, water, a map of the island and one randomly selected weapon. Let the games begin.
Holy shit if this wasn’t the inspiration for its spiritual successor The Hunger Games, I don’t know what is. The fact that it cuts out all the random futuristic elements and instead throws in some genuine looks and feels of violence, makes it all the greater. Battle Royale is the bomb. I hamper on about this comparison, but it honestly feels like an unofficial lovechild of Tarantino.
But aside from the fantastic violent characteristics, what also makes this film a great watch is the realistic scenario’s our characters are placed. Though we follow primarily two protagonists, who work together as sort of young lovebirds against their student murderers around them, we also get to see their encounters with other groups. It’s thoroughly interesting to see how dynamics and teams are formed within the class, given they are presented with such an incredibly horrifying circumstance. You follow how some prefer to be lone wolves, the individuals that work in groups but are willing to betray another because of mistrust, and those that are just straight up psychotic serial killers that love the sport. All of this is just fucking amazing to watch and it sets up for some awesome “battles” to take place.
Even if this whole story sounds inconceivable to think of, it nevertheless doesn’t prevent it from feeling like these are the things that would happen if it did ever occur. Yes, you might not think your own high-school friends could ever be capable of doing something so crazy, like killing their own peers let alone friends, but holy crap, how do you really know that if push came to shove, they wouldn’t? This is what Battle Royale wants to explore. The alliances and the betrayals people can have when we are pushed to our most primal urge and instincts, to simply do one thing: survive.
A great film and leagues ahead of its time.