Despite not being released to a wide majority of the world, Battle Royale has garnered almost as many hyperbolic statements as cult fans. Thanks to Anchor Bay, those heavenly bastards of home video, a U.S. Blu-Ray release is finally a reality (maybe some love to The Hunger Games too). Regardless of how it came to be, thank Zeus it is finally here.
For those not familiar the plot is devilishly simple. After the economy collapses, juveniles become even scarier to old people than rap music. Fearful of the kids, the Japanese government passes the Battle Royal Act. Each year, a class of ninth graders are sent off to an island, fitted with neck-exploding collars, given weapons at random ranging from a pot-lids to sub-machine guns and are forced to murder the f*ck out of each other until only one student remains. It’s one of the best and tightest setups for an action flick ever put to film.
That setup wouldn’t be enough if the execution wasn’t up to snuff as well. It is. From the overly cheery Japanese Laura Croft rule explainer girl to the graphic murders, the film does nearly everything right. It’s never dull. Never predictable. You’ll like some of the characters, love some others and despise even more of them. The social dynamics are far-reaching and add significant depth to a film that proudly boasts teen murder. It’s that extra thought-provoking “What would I do in this same situation?” element that elevates the film into rarefied air.
But let’s talk about the Blu-Ray quality. It look amazing. In parts. Which nearly makes up for other parts looking like blurry, artifact-ridden VHS splice jobs. The difference scene to scene is often jarring. I’d like to be able to say that this is due to parts of the film being director’s cut (the version I watched) additions of which no better versions of those scenes are available, but I am not sure. I’ve read some blu-ray reviews already that attribute some of this to inherit flaws with the source, but certainly not all of it.
To the average viewer the quality variations will be noticeable and do have a negative impact on the overall experience.
Things that don’t have a negative impact: A decapitated teenage head, with a live grenade stuffed in its mouth, thrown through a window. Or just about any other of the over-the-top bloody fun deaths. While the movie works on several levels most of the fun comes from the deaths, the countdown and a rather odd scene involving Orange Creamsicles. Re-watching this film again after several years was such a treat. So much damn fun.
The sound however does not suffer the same fate as the video. It’s perfect in just about every possible way for a movie made in 2000. Audiophiles will dig on this Blu for years to come.
Watching Battle Royale is akin to being strapped in a crazy chair that is hooked to a roller coaster of death, blood and awesome. A brilliant masterpiece and a must own for fans, just note the Blu may leave you feeling a little blue.
Blu-Ray Quality 6.5/10
Snore Factor: Z