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Battle Royale 2: Requiem (Fukasaku Kinji 2003)


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Battle Royale II: Requiem
[Battle Royale 2]

Genre: Sappy Political Melodramatic Action

review in one breath

Fukasaku Kinji (1930-2003) directed over 60 films in his lifetime, including Black Lizard (Kurotokage , 1968 - working with and starring Mishima Yukio) , Mansion of the Black Rose (Kuro bara no yakata, 1969), Chushingura Gaiden: Yotsuya Kaidan (Crest of Betrayal, 1994), and the wildly popular Battle Royale (2000). Fukasaku Kinji died of prostrate cancer shortly after the filming of Battle Royale II: Requiem started, and thus most of the directorial responsibilities fell upon his son, Fukasaku Kenta, who also helped in the writing of Battle Royale. Thus the film clearly credits "Fukasaku Gumi" or "Fukasaku Group" with the directorial role, alluding to this exchange of responsibility.


We all loved Battle Royale, not only because we got to see heads exploding off their (former) torsos (torsi?), but because that movie shocked us, made us think. We had to think about youth, about violence, about friendship, about that stupid kid in your class who would undoubtedly be the one to accidentally misfire an automatic weapon into your entire group, killing and maiming who knows how many you. You know the kid I'm talking about.

Battle Royale II: Requiem, on the other hand, chooses a different path. It dispenses with the hope of being as shocking and unusual as its prequel. Instead, it seeks to deliver a more ideological message. Rather than shock you, Battle Royale II: Requiem wants to make you mad; mad at the injustices of the world, and mad especially at a particular nation whose initials are "U.S.A." for bombing a long list of smaller nations over the course of the past six decades.

And indeed the audience of Battle Royale II: Requiem will become angry, quite angry. Not at the injustices of the world, however, but at the fact that Battle Royale II: Requiem insists on thinking for you by preaching on and On and ON its half-baked notion of "freedom". Sit back and relax, my friends, and prepare yourselves for 133 excruciating minutes of sermonic boredom interspersed with dramatic, candle-lit poses by Shuya in afghan costume .

How could this possibly be, you ask? How can the proven formula of high school kids wearing school uniforms and wielding automatic weapons in a frag-match to the death possibly go wrong? How could the "Fukasaku Gumi" possibly screw up the exploding head routine? How, How? HOW?

The opening moments of the film show every high rise in Tokyo being levelled to the ground in scenes reminiscent of the collapse of the World Trade Towers. Through a voiceover by Nanahara Shuya we learn that three whole years have passed since he (Shuya - played by Tatsuya Fujiwara) and Noriko survived the Battle Royale game. During this time, Shuya has done a lot of thinking and preparation, and has instituted an "Age of Terrorism", declaring all out war on Adults.

Great.

But when we last saw Shuya and Noriko, they were scurrying frightenedly through Tokyo streets, hand in hand, hiding beneath oversized jackets, sunglasses and hats. Thus consider what the audience is asked to assume just to get this ball rolling. According to what we are told, in a mere 36 months:

  1. Shuya has traveled to Afghanistan;
  2. Shuya somehow finds himself in the company of a "freedom-fighter" brigade (in afghanistan fighting ???) led by a japanese-speaking revolutionary who gives Shuya his first gun, a kalashnikov (" the universal symbol of freedom fighters throughout the world"). The brigade abandons Shuya that same day (before Shuya can fire a single shot for any cause) yelling out "Never look back!!";
  3. Shuya becomes thoroughly enmeshed in afghan culture, speaking the language, wearing afghan garb (which he still wears back in Japan) and generally "becoming one" with the children (but not the adults!) of Afghanistan.
  4. Shuya enters and trains in an Afghanistan-based terrorist training camp (and apparently graduates with a degree in "terrorism by poseur");
  5. Shuya returns to Japan
  6. Shuya starts a group with six other (trained?) youth and call themselves the "Wild Seven";
  7. Apparently with their personal savings amassed during their Junior High years earning minimum wage, the Wild Seven gather enough resources to:
    1. purchase enough explosives to bring down every skyscraper in Tokyo
    2. mastermind a plan which not only plants the explosives but successfully detonates them all simultaneously - destroying every tall rise building in Tokyo
    3. escape Tokyo to a small, (VERY) nearby island which the mililtary is obviously aware of;
    4. set up satellite global communications from the island allowing Shuya to interrupt communication with live broadcasts to every nation... All on a single gas-powered generator!

Are you with me? I hope so, because if you can't swallow that, you certainly aren't going to be too happy with the remaining two hours consisting solely of the Japanese army's (LAME) attempts to overpower this formidable band of high school terrorists. This non-stop action (?) is interrupted only by frequent, lengthy, tear-jerker sermons by Shuya recounting over and Over and OVER his insight into global justice and the principles of free global society. (Tell me more Shuya!)

Okay, so Shuya is on this island, and he has literally blown up every high rise in Tokyo with his band of (pre)pubescent warriors. Holy cow, there must be at least 20 of them by now, half about 6 years old or so, on this tiny island. No wonder the Japanese military are cowering on the mainland and decide instead to change the (beloved) rules of "BR", from class versus class to class versus Wild Seven.

By the time our visionary Shuya realizes that he is straifing the innards out of, yes that's right, youth (!), about two thirds of the class of 42 are gone. Its precisely at this point that everyone in the audience realizes that the tried and true formula of Battle Royale is about to be tinkered with big time. And sure enough, our flailing and incompetent youth now join forces with the Wild Seven to fight, not only the Japanese military who put them there, but against all adult world powers who dare oppose pubescent "freedom-fighters".

Sure. Why not.

I'd hate to give this thought-provoking plot away, so instead I'll rely on the following thought experiment: ("spoiler" warning)

Imagine a large, modern army invading a very, very small island (so small that you can see the "hideout" from off shore) inhabited by no more than 15 teens. Imagine that the teens' fortress consists of nothing more than a dilapidated framework built of tin and wood. Now imagine that you need this scenario to last about two hours. Can you figure out how to do this and still maintain an "action movie". No? Nor could anyone else, including Fukasaku Gumi! Now imagine you want to conclude with a dramatic battle scene where the army (finally) storms the island, but you want your protagonists, along with their dreams and ideology to "live on". Can you imagine how to do this? No? Well then, imagine a hidden mine shaft (yes, a mine shaft) that runs under the ocean all the way from the island to the mainland. Good thing you could use your imagination and weren't confined by common sense for this little exercise, eh?

I'm afraid to say this film was a real let down when it otherwise had the potential to be something very good. Very few Japanese movies make me angry to watch, but I was scoffing all the way through this one. The action was minuscule and implausible. The "acting" and narrative was so syrupy that I cringe even recalling it. And despite the power of the opening scene showing the devastation of Tokyo's skyline, the special effects throughout were really poor. More than several times cartoonish, superimposed blood spurts can be seen apparently in an attempt to heighten the "action". And since I'm on a roll here, one more thing that was an affront was the sheer rip-off of the cinematography and style of the coastal landing scene from Saving Private Ryan which Fukasaku "borrows" for his own landing scene. Bah humbug.

cultural interest violence sex strangeness
This movie's syrupy preaching will cause even the most compassionate liberal idealist to go out and kick a kitten. Not nearly the variety of creative offings we found in the prequel. Plenty of necklace explosions and gunshot wounds. Untold thousands of audience members will surely die of either boredom or by being preached to death. Shuya only sleeps with his Kalashnikov (which I think I heard him refer to as "Momo-chan"). If by "strange" you mean "anger inducing enough to make you want to punch the chihuahua", then yes, one green skull. Either that or for the balls on these guys to suggest a hidden mine shaft runs from the island to the mainland. Sheesh.

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