Battle Royale (2002)
Director - Kinji Fukasaku
DVD Released by : Tartan Video (UK)
Player reviewed with : Momitsu v880
Receiver reviewed with : Pioneer VSX-D409
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
English Subtitles
Enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs
Original Theatrical Trailer
Star and Director Filmographies
Running Time: 113 Minutes (Box states 109 minutes)
Region 0

Battle Royale is a movie that has generated a certain amount of notoriety among those with knowledge of its existence. I had of course heard of this movie and tried to read as many reviews as I could to try to get a sense of the flavor of this film prior to seeing it. I have to be honest and tell you that I expected a high quality exploitation film of sorts (which would have been just fine with me). Oh, I expected that it would be well done and with Beat Takeshi in the mix I knew that the acting most likely would be top notch. What I was not expecting was that this film and its themes did not come across to me as exploitative or gratuitous in any way. Let me just say right off the bat that this is a great film.

The story takes place in future Japan where the collapse of the economy and extremely high jobless rate has weakened not only the government, but all of societies systems. Chaos reigns leading to the beginnings of student revolt in the schools. The increase in student violence leads the government to pass the BR (Battle Royale) Act, where a middle school is selected randomly to participate with no choice in the matter.

A middle school class is taken to an island, where they find themselves forced to participate in a game with the highest stakes possible. They must murder each other to survive. Only one child can remain of the 42 initial classmates that begin the game. I won't go too much further in describing the plot as the intricacies of how they are forced into this position and what happens along the way are best experienced without any prior knowledge of the how's and whys. Suffice to say that this movie is not one dimensional in any way. There is solidly presented drama, comedy, action, love and cruelty among the interactions of the children forced into this horrible predicament. The strong foundation that this film moves around is the solid depiction of humanity from its best to its worst.

The acting in this movie is solid to excellent all the way through. Leading the way is a ferociously stone faced 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano as the middle school class teacher working with the military to force his class to take their part in the BR Act. The children as a group are excellent. All of the actors are extremely young which lends a high degree of realism to the film. You don't need to suspend your disbelief very hard to believe this is a tightly knit middle school class. Each of the children responds very differently to the 'game' being played. Fans of Kill Bill will recognize the actress that played Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama) in her role as Takako Chigusa (Girls #13).

The island that this movie takes place on deserves mention as well. A multitude of locations ranging from lush forests and beach side cliffs to abandoned buildings gives this film a great post apocalyptic type feel. The cinematography is used perfectly in all of the locals and at times the images can be quite beautiful.

This movie is a classic that I believe will pass the test of time. Powerful themes and an (intentionally) repellent subject matter should not keep you from seeing this movie and making your own decisions about this film. Make no mistake that this film is extremely violent and gory at times. However, nothing in life comes easily and none of the deaths feel gratuitous. I'm not going to go as far as saying this is a modern remake of Lord of the Flies, but there are definitely many themes shared between these two stories. If you love bold, fearless film making with a punch, this movie should be on your short list.

Video and audio

Visually this DVD is a treat. The image on display is bright and colorful with solid black levels. The color scheme is slightly off kilter, but that was intentional and not a transfer issue. There is some small amount of grain, but overall this is a very clean detailed image with negligible amounts of enhancement. This film is enhanced for widescreen TVs. I can't imagine that this image could be improved to any great degree.

There is only one audio track, the original Japanese in a 5.1 DD track. It would have been nice to have a DTS track available, but there are no complaints on the mix here. LFE is solid and has real punch to it. The surrounds are used throughout the film to good effect. A very solid effort and while a DTS track would be nice, you aren't going to be angry that it is not present.

Menus, subtitles and extras

The menus, which are highly animated, all offer anamorphic enhancement, including most of the company logos and warnings. The menus have all text displayed in English.

There are only English subtitles on this disc. The subtitles are well done with no glaring grammar or spelling issues. The default setup for this disc is to have the subtitles being displayed.

The extras for this disc are slim. You get the original trailer (enhanced for widescreen TVs), a stills gallery with a total of 4 whole images (one of which is the map of the island though), filmographies of the director and 3 of the actors & film notes by Mark Hyatt. Not much there at all, but it's something I suppose. Don't buy this disc for the extras.


This is an excellent bare bones presentation of Battle Royale. As a region free NTSC disc defaulting to the originally Japanese 5.1 and English subs demonstrates that this was clearly targeted towards the North American fan of this film. I don't believe that a fan of this film from the USA can find this movie in a better presentation than this. That isn't to say that a fan of this film from anywhere in the world with a region free multisystem player would not be very pleased with this disc. Highly recommended.

Kai Johnson - Reviewed 1/1/05 Copyright© 2004