Tag Archives: takeshi kitano

Battle Royale & Battle Royale II: Requiem Review

7 Jul

Before The Hunger Games was even a thought, Koushun Takami wrote a novel released in 1999 called Battle Royale. The following year, Kenji Fukasaku adapted the story for the big screen and was met with worldwide controversy over the subject material. This controversy, of course, garnered the film much respect along with just how well it was made. It’s almost cinematic law now that a successful movie like Battle Royale needs a sequel, and in 2003, Battle Royale II: Requiem was released.

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The first Battle Royale film takes place in a not too distant dystopian future where the Japanese youth has gotten entirely out of hand. As a response to their overly rebellious behavior, the BR Act is passed by the government. A group of students are witness to the effects of the this act firsthand when they are kidnapped on the way home from a school trip where their old school teacher, Kitano (“Beat” Takeshi Kitano), tells them that they are being released on an island where they must fight to the death until one of them is left standing. To make matters worse, unless they are all still alive within 72 hours or they are in a danger zone at a certain time, robotic necklaces that they are all strapped to will detonate. Let the games begin.

Battle Royale is truly an outstanding movie. How The Hunger Games got away with such a blatant rip off is way beyond me, but that’s not what I want to talk about. This movie had a good opportunity to be silly and violent, and in some parts there is great dark humor, but for the most part it takes itself seriously. Not only that, but it succeeds with its serious demeanor. There is lots of violence, but it never gets out of hand or ridiculous. In fact, it is hard to watch at times because you find yourself thinking about what you would do if you were in that situation. This makes Battle Royale a horrifying movie, due to its circumstances.

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Unfortunately, the movie does get a little heavy handed with the dialogue sometimes and it unintentionally funny, but as soon as you find yourself laughing, the next scene will only make you more nervous or upset. Takeshi Kitano is great in this movie and I had so much fun watching him whenever he was onscreen. Talk about taking a character and really making it your own. Battle Royale is a devastating look at teenage rebellion and the effects that it has on everyone around them. If you feel like you can handle the material presented in this movie, it isn’t really one you should let yourself miss.

Now, there really does not have to be a sequel. Can we just forget that it even exists? No? Fine. I guess it is my job to watch it and let you all know how it is. Three years after the original film, Battle Royale II: Requiem was released. Oh boy.

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Three years after the events of Battle Royale, one of the survivors of the games, Shuya Nanahara (Tatsuya Fujiwara), has created a guerrilla terrorist faction to seek revenge on adults everywhere for the torture that they put him through. As a result, the government has upgraded their BR Program, and another group of high schoolers are put to the test. This time they are sent to and island where it is believed Nanahara is hiding and given the task to find him and kill him within 72 hours, or the necklaces will explode, not only killing the one wearing the necklace, but also their partner. Once on the island they are quickly launched in a battle with the terrorists who want to survive the onslaught and have their ultimate revenge.

Forget everything that was cool or exciting about the original Battle Royale, you won’t find any of that here. Instead we are forced to see battle scenes a la Saving Private Ryan. Was there anything like that in the original? No! Not only is it completely devoid of suspense, but it gets worse than the most repetitive game you may have ever played. Someone is shot, their partners neck explodes, and their friends all yell their names. Over and over and over again. To me, it almost becomes a comedy of sorts. Once the actual “game” is over and it becomes some sort of quasi-war movie, I completely lost interest.

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Unfortunately, the director of the previous film, Kenji Fukasaku, was set to direct this but dies of pancreatic cancer after only shooting one scene. His son, Kenta Fukasaku, who wrote both films, ended up directing the rest. I gotta say, I’m not a fan of his style. When you need to throw in CGI blood (which it is already known that I despise) and CGI debris in every other scene, the movie just starts to looks silly. That’s what Battle Royale II ultimately is: a silly mess of a movie. An overly long movie at that.

In conclusion, Battle Royale is not a movie that should be missed. It is exciting, suspenseful, and surprisingly thought provoking. As for its sequel, it is the ultimate proof that there are some movies that do not need to be made under any circumstances. Still, I’m glad I got to experience the first entry, and I’ll be sure to watch it again.

Outrage – Review

25 Apr

Over the years, Japanese film maker/actor Takeshi Kitano has proved that he has what it takes to hang with the most elite crime film makers. I’d like to think of him as the Martin Scorsese of Japan. He’s done a lot of work with Yakuza stories, but has more recently branched out into other genres like romance and comedy. With Outrage, Kitano showed a return to form with a tale of violence and betrayal that takes place with break neck speed. Outrage is a fine piece of film making, although I felt like I was experiencing cinematic whip lash by the time the credits began to roll.

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Partnerships aren’t very simple if you’re a member of the Yakuza. Ikemoto (Jun Kunimura) made peace with and decided to become associates with rival Yakuza gang leader Murase (Renji Ishibashi) while they were in prison. Now that they are out, things don’t seem like they are going to pan out quite like they had in mind. Sekiuchi (Soichiro Kitamura), boss of the Sanno-kai family orders Ikemoto to sever all ties and completely wipe out Murase’s family. This task is quickly handed down to Ikemoto’s violent, yet surprisingly calm subordinate, Otomo (Beat Takeshi aka Takeshi Kitano). All out war erupts and no one can trust their closest allies, as betrayals and double crossings take over the criminal underworld.

Prepare to be very confused. I know I was. This movie hits the ground sprinting and doesn’t stop until the last frame of the movie. Calling this movie slow is like calling Charles Manson sane. This speed works both to the advantage and disadvantage of the movie. The advantage was that I was never bored. I had to really try my best to keep up with all the characters and their motivations, which seemed to change very often. The disadvantage is that the movie felt sloppy at certain points. Some of the characters remained sorely undeveloped, so when a scene involving their demise came about, it felt empty. Sometimes it’s best to slow down and let the audience latch onto a character, and really get to understand what makes them tick.

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Then again, who ever said the criminal underworld was simple? I respect the movie for not holding the viewer’s hand and guiding them from point A to point B. Outrage demands your full attention, and if you let it slide for just a minute, you might have a lot to catch up on. Perhaps it would have been nicer for the film to be longer. Think of if Casino was only an hour and forty minutes, but still had every plot point in it. That would feel really crammed. When I did find myself getting lost or agitated, there was something that would rope me right back in and realize that this is a good movie, you just have to get used to it. These scenes I’m talking about were normally quick pieces of brutality, but sometimes it was just a funny character or situation. That’s another good point about Outrage. Kitano injects it with a very dry and cynical sense of humor.

It’s interesting to see a lot of American gangster films and then switch over to another culture and see their take on it. There’s something unique about Yakuza films that really tickle my fancy. Their organized crime culture seems so different, yet at the same time, so similar. There’s stories of greed and violence, but set in a different place with different rules. Sometimes it was a little hard to keep track of the different families and who belonged on which side because the hierarchal structure of their syndicates and families is different than the ones shown in American gangster films. Still, it’s an fun experience to compare and contrast these cultures.

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To me, Outrage wasn’t disappointing, but it wasn’t quite exactly what I wanted either. The speed of the movie is relentless which causes some major problems in its storytelling, but the entire picture that it paints is really cool. There is no real main character to speak of. One may argue that Kitano’s character is the main character, but not all of the action really focuses around him. It’s more of a conglomeration of many different characters and how their motives clash and cause violence to erupt in a wonderfully bloody fashion. Definitely give this movie a watch. I know I’ll watch it again. I still can’t put this on a list of best gangster movies, and I can’t even call it great. It’s a respectable film, nonetheless.