Battle Royale 2 review by The Grim Ringler

When the original Battle Royale was released a couple of years ago it set off a firestorm within the movie nerd world. Everyone was talking about it, everyone wanted to see it, and everyone knew it’d be a cold day in hell before any American companies had the guts to release it here. Since its release the film has become a bit of cult film but beneath that cult following is a very dark commentary on violence and the loss of innocence of an entire generation. Created as a sort of twisted adaptation of Lord of the Flies BR1 remains, for me at least, a movie that has to be seen to be believed. Naturally a sequel was demanded as soon as the first film became a success and so the director set about assembling his film. Sadly, director Kinji Fukasaku died during the filming of BR2 and his son was forced to take over the film. As soon as Kinji died the nerd populace cried foul, assuming his son Kenta, a novice filmmaker with one film under his belt, would ruin the world his father had created. Everything you read about the film made you think – oh crap, they ruined it. Needless to say I wasn’t very anxious to see this film. When I was recently able to watch it though my curiosity awakened and I decided the film deserved a fair shake. The film has just been released on video in Asia and will probably never see the light of day here (check your internet importers would be my suggestion) so this is certainly not going to be an easy film to find. Really though, that isn’t the question here, the question is – is it worth tracking down? Yes.

Picking up three years after the first film, this film finds Shuya (the hero from the first film) a known and wanted terrorist aligned with a group of children who call themselves the Wild Seven and whom have declared a war against the adults. Believing Shuya and the Wild Seven are behind a series of terrorist attacks that have lead to several deaths the BR commission has changed the rules of the game – instead of a classroom of school-children being sent to an secluded area of Japan to kill of each other, they are to be sent to the island the Wild Seven are believed to be located and are to kill Shuya and his followers. Another classroom is chosen and taken to a military base to be given the choice of playing the game or in opting out and dying. And again we have a class of misfits and rebels who cannot imagine what they did to land them in this nightmare. Again it is the class’s own teacher who has betrayed them and who shall push and prod them onward to kill the Wild Seven (played by legendary film villain Riki Takeuchi). There is no escaping the BR act. It is play or die. The twist this time is that the children – each wearing a bomb-laden necklace - are paired with one another so that if one should die then their partner shall also die so that there is an added incentive to succeed. So the children play. They are sent to the island via small boats and immediately come under fire and are forced to make a beach landing not unlike the landing of American troops at Normandy. During the landing many of the school children (few of whom we ever are allowed to know very well) are killed by either the Wild Seven or by their own hands, and the nightmare is just beginning. As the children land on the beach they must make their way up an open beach to find shelter and wait for the adults running the game to give them ammo for their weapons. They are sitting ducks until then. Many more are killed before they can even fight back but as soon as they are given ammunition the hunt for the Wild Seven begins as inch by inch the children move towards the outpost that houses the terrorists. When the children finally do make it to the heart of the terrorist camp both groups are shocked to find that neither knew quite what the other was – the Wild Seven having opened fire in the first place having believed the children were a military force. When Shuya finds out the error he and the Wild Seven have made he immediately has the necklaces removed from the school children as a sign of faith and leaves it to the children to decide whom to fight. Learning that the remaining members of the class (which are quite few compared to the forty-odd that left for the island) have joined forces with Shuya the government finally does send a military force to mop things up before America (which is portrayed as a militaristic bully with a tendency to bomb anyone they don’t agree with politically) can launch an attack on Japan to put an end to the terrorism sweeping the small nation. And as the military storm the island the Wild Seven and the remaining classmates must make one last stand against the adults that have sentenced them all to die and hope they can start a revolution that will spread to other parts of the globe.

While far from a perfect film, this is a much more solid film than early reviews would have you believe. Shot ably by both father and son, this film is about as close as you might get to a sequel to Lord of the Flies  - with the children of the book off their island and presented with a world where the adults have gone insane. But there is as much of that book as there is Peter Pan with Shuya playing the part of Peter and leading his children who refuse to grow up and grow old against the cold steel establishment that has created the Battle Royale act. The most interesting thing the film does is to pose the question – what if a terrorist is fighting for the right cause? Shuya and his Wild Seven have never wanted to hurt the innocent but are portrayed as terrorists when they attempt to fight the actions of their unjust government. They are portrayed as villains when they are truly the heroes here. And beyond all of this America looms large as a great bully intent on making sure everyone does as it says. Much of the background of the film is set to show how the world has become a place full of wars created by America and how these wars have created a very dark and dangerous world. Which is not terribly easy to take if you happen to be American. But it is an interesting view of how our world politics are viewed outside of these borders. What all of this show is meant to show is that in a world of terror, the lines between terrorist and terrorized are blurry at best and those with the most power can sometimes become the greatest of bullies as long as they believe their cause is just.

While not as strong or unique a story as the first film, this film does have a much deeper and more politically engaging story, though its execution can get bogged down by mediocre acting and too fast of a pace. The children in the film are mediocre at worst but some of them are very good. The problem here is that Shuya still comes across as too passive and uncertain – which doesn’t befit the leader of a terrorist cell too well. It is also very hard to get to know the children in this film, which may have been a deliberate way to show how faceless war is, but if that was the point then sadly its lost in the chaos. The war scenes are very well shot and truly do give a sense of the danger and madness that we forget exists in these conditions. And this film, like its predecessor, is very brutal in making the point that these children, to the adults that have sent them to die, are nothing more than cattle off to slaughter, a point that is prove, and graphically so, time and again. The digital effects in the film are spotty at times but do generally work well. The weakest thing in the whole film really was the ending though, which sort of falls apart after what had been a tremendous build-up. I suppose it was a matter of them not quite knowing what to do with the story after they reached a certain point but it still harms the overall feel of the picture when all is said and done.

All things considered, I really did like Battle Royale 2. It has a very dark, very thoughtful story, buried beneath the hammy acting and explosions, and poses some very interesting, if disconcerting questions about the world we live in and our place in it. Considering how many negative reviews I read of this film I am surprised at how well the film turned out. I think most reviewers were simply disappointed that this was not the first film and had a grudge against it from the word go. There are definitely problems in this film (Takeuchi, cannot seem to decide whether he is playing things straight or hamming it up here, which can get distracting, as can some of the heavy-handed America-bashing), and it is certainly not as good as the first film, but this is a very worthy, and very well made sequel that really doesn’t deserve as much of the bashing it has taken. Very few films would have the guts to tread the same ground as the first film did but this one does very well in doing so, even if it does often tread within the first film’s very large shadow.


7 out of 10 Jackasses
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