Friday, January 14, 2011

Battle Royale: Directors Cut (2001)

Directed By:
Kinji Fukasaku

Summing It Up:

In the future, students in Japan's school system have become unruly and violent, causing the Japanese government to pass the "Battle Royale Act." Under this act, a random class of children is selected each year to become participants in a game where they are all put on a remote island and forced to fight against (and kill) each other until there is only one student left standing.

Quick Thoughts: 
Battle Royale has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it. In my mind, it's a modern masterpiece of Japanese exploitation cinema. However, the main thing that separates this film from many of the others that fall under that banner is that, underneath all of the violence, Battle Royale actually has a huge heart. While on the surface, it appears to exist solely to shock audiences with a story about kids killing kids, the underlying themes in the film deal with the limits and tests of true friendship.

The history behind the film is an interesting one, and it has remained the subject of controversy since it's initial release a little over a decade ago (while the "Director's Cut" was released in 2001, the theatrical print was from 2000). This may be part of the reason why it has yet to have a real release here in America. Some say it's because the rights holder, Toei, wants too much money for distribution rights, and some say it is due to the child violence that makes up the backbone of the story (after all, the Columbine Tragedy happened not too long before this film first surfaced, and several others have followed over the years). Regardless, it still managed to find an audience here via imports, bootlegs, etc.

At this point, I've probably seen the film around 15 times or so. I have an original R3 DVD copy of the Theatrical Cut from Hong Kong, and an R0 DVD copy of the Director's Cut that came from there as well, but this viewing was of the Director's Cut from Arrow Video's new Limited Edition Blu-ray box set (it includes both versions of the film and a ton of extra stuff). The set is Region-Free, and since all material is in 1080p HD, it will play on all equipment. 

To date, this is the best that I think the film has ever looked or sounded. The film transfer isn't perfect (there is some digital manipulation to the source), but it is a definite upgrade from the other versions that I own, and my suspicions are that any shortcomings are due to the source that Toei made available. The audio, however, is pretty much perfect, and the lossless track was nothing short of amazing. In my opinion, it really enhanced the viewing experience, and I would recommend this disc for that particular upgrade alone.

In the end, if you haven't seen this film, I highly recommend it. As to which version I suggest, it's really hard to say. I love both of them, but my inclination is to point people towards the Director's Cut; if only because it features more of the emotional character arcs that make this film more than just an exploitative piece. Still, I think that genre fans will enjoy it either way.


5 out of 5


Strange Kid said...

I've been wanting to see this one ever since I say the trailer for it on the "Suicide Club" DVD. Guess I'll be going for the Director's Cut, thanks for the advice. ;)

hagiblog said...

I haven't watched this one in quite a few years now and I think I have the second part sitting around somewhere as well.

Gotta say that I liked the manga a bit more but I have never read the original novel it was all based on.

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