Movie Poster
Battle Royale II
Kenta Fukasaku, Kinji Fukasaku
Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shûgo Oshinari, Aki Maeda, Riki Takeuchi, Sonny Chiba, Takeshi Kitano
134 min.


First off, a formalist caveat: this is a terrible movie. It is bombastic; it is amateurish; it is poorly designed; it is filled with every cliche and contrivance this side of Pearl Harbor; it is boring. It lacks everything that made the original Battle Royale such an exciting experience.

That having been said, Battle Royale II is probably the most conceptually and philosophically unique movie I have seen. And it is political like the World Trade Center bombing was political. If Farhenheit 9/11 had been independently directed in different versions by Osama Bin Laden, Steven Spielberg and Larry Flynt and all three of those were mixed together with the latest Freddie Prinze, Jr movie you start to get an idea of the kind of intellectual terrain this movie treads.

The genius of the first Battle Royale lay partly in that it managed to couch all of its ultraviolence and black humor into a saleable feel-good teen melodrama. Battle Royale II is at once grippingly vital and profoundly misguided. Or limply lifeless and intellectually incendiary. I can't tell which. Every successive moment during the film's final half hour leaves you astonished, bored and admirational in equal measure. And Riki Takeuchi plays himself? I have no idea what to make of that. But I like it.

The story follows a new class of students selected to kill not each other but Nanahara Shuya. The survivor from the first Battle is now an international terrorist, having "declared war on all adults". In the opening sequence his group the Wild Seven bring down a pair of skyscrapers. He and his merry band of rock-and-roll-style terrorists are holed up in bunkers on an otherwise deserted island. This year's class storms the island, mostly dying in the process, only to be captured by Shuya and his crew. This is where it gets interesting. But it isn't interesting is the thing. It's insane, maybe. Or maybe its clearly demonstrating that there is no sanity aside from Riki Takeuchi and Nanahara Shuya.

Tatsuya Fujiwara plays Shuya like Orlando Bloom playing Osama as a neo-hippie teen-heartthrob. After giving an AK-47 to a child no more than 8 years old and telling him "this is the gun of Freedom fighters all over the world, you now decide who it shoots" you become aware that this movie seems to be not merely anti-American, but pro-terrorism. Which seems unnecessary when you think about it, because I'm pretty sure that Battle Royale II just destroyed the world. But in a good way.

Everything is overdone while none of it seems completed. The commentary is overwrought and drags on the story; the story is convoluted to the point of nonsense; the performances are uniformly off-putting in their ham-handed gesturing (Riki Takeuchi vs. Takeshi Kitano illustrating, in a nutshell, the difference between the sequel and the original); there are scenes blatantly stolen from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Saving Private Ryan, not to mention the original BR. It somehow manages to be both wholly uninvolving and the most affecting experience, film or otherwise, of your life.

Yes, on the one hand its like a bad imitation of the original done by talentless kids on zero budget; but on the other hand it is a film like no other film before it. No, it is more than that. It is so much a film that nothing that came before it can even really still be considered part of the medium. It is as though Kenta Fukasaku, quite by accident, has created the first and only motion picture. But, you know? As bad as it is, I don't think we really need any other movies.

Pat Jackson