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Battle Royale | review | dvd | Lollipop
Battle Royale II
by Chad Van Wagner
If you missed the first Battle Royale, you missed one of the most memorable cult classics in recent years. Basically Lord of the Flies with all the plot removed and replaced with machine guns, Battle Royale was a loud, obnoxious, morally indefensible piece of brainless joy. Granted, there was some sort of subtext about how society takes its aggression and fears out on its kids, but it got lost somewhere around the time the one guy stuck a hand grenade into the mouth of a freshly-severed head before lobbing it at his adversaries. Yes, it's that kind of movie.
This is not to say it doesn't have its own kind of warped cinematic integrity. Kitano "Beat" Takeshi is always good, and the mayhem has the kind of kinetic ridiculousness that director Kinji Fukasaku was known for. Besides, it alerted Quentin Tarantino to Chiaki "Go Go Yubari" Kuriyama.
Astute readers will no doubt have noticed that we are now into the third paragraph of this review, and I have yet to actually talk about Battle Royale II. Put simply, there's no real reason to watch it: The new wrinkles aren't very interesting, the mayhem isn't any better, and a lot of what makes the first film work is just plain missing. All the wrong elements have been emphasized: Watching a trashy film about teenagers murdering each other is one thing, but focusing on realistic fear and pain kind of takes the naughty enjoyment out of it. If there were real characters, that'd be one thing, but there aren't: Just crying, terrified kids. Not fun.
Also, "Beat" Takeshi is reduced to a very brief cameo. His place is taken by the king of Japanese direct-to-video, Riki Takeuchi. In more familiar terms, this is like replacing Robert De Niro with Jean Claude Van Damme (tellingly, the cover art still features Takeshi prominently). It's possible one might get some enjoyment out of Takeuchi's jaw-droppingly over the top "performance," but I wouldn't bet on it.
In all fairness, the production had its issues: Director Fukasaku sadly passed on halfway through, and his son, Kenta, took over. But one should remember the elder Fukasaku for such gems as Black Lizard and the original Battle Royale, not this mediocrity. Take a pass on this one.