Thursday, January 7, 2010

Favourite Film of the Decade #1 - Battle Royale

Here it is. Number one with a bullet. And a knife. And a grenade. And a pot lid. Say it aloud with a strong Japanese accent, "Battle Royale!".

As I mentioned in a previous entry (Exiled I believe) by the beginning of the 2000s I had become increasingly bored with American films. So much so that I rarely watched them. I was way more interested in reading (comics and horror novels, nothing too highfalutin) than seeing anything that was coming out. But I started dipping my toe more and more into Asian cinema, though there wasn't a lot that was available. And speaking of "not available", I eventually saw the movie that would change my viewing habits forever, Battle Royale.

Already a fan of Takeshi Kitano, I rented BR from the wonderful Suspect Video here in Toronto, and was completely floored by it's dark sense of humour, action, melodrama, violence, style and intelligence. I'm pretty certain I watched it again either the same day or the next one with my good buddy Timbo. Then I needed to show it to someone else. And so on and so forth.

Though it is still only available as an import in North America (there was talks of remaking it, yet no one wanted to release the original) most people know the plot. A group of students wake up on an island and are forced to kill each other until there is only one survivor/winner. What the director, Kinji Fukasaku, does with the material is outstanding. It would be easy to get lost in the plot along with the many characters he needs to juggle, but Fukasaku never missteps and manages to get every reaction from the audience he intends to. One minute you may be shocked and the next you may be saddened, then shocked again. It all happens so fast, yet rarely does it seem that way. And despite all the violence and nastiness, I did find the film's final statement strong and touching enough to completely vindicate anything that anyone may have found offensive. I might be in the minority, but I really didn't find the film that offensive at all, the symbolism of what we force upon our children in this increasingly competitive world is made quite clear from the get go and none of the violence seems like empty shock cinema (though I have nothing against empty violence either).

I gotta admit, when that copycat Quentin Tarantino revealed that his favourite film since 1992 was Battle Royale I felt like I was in good company, but everyone was going to think, "Hey, that's Quentin Tarantino's favourite. You're like Tarantino Guitarbrother. You have no mind of your own shitheel. I knew there was a reason I hate you." But then I remembered, with a squeal of delight, that I had posted my "favourite films of the decade so far", on the Mondo Movie message board well over a year ago, and what is sitting at number one? Battle Royale sucka! Obviously, it was Tarantino who read my posting and changed his list, and not the other way around. He should've covered his tracks better.

Needless to say, if you haven't seen this masterpiece, Git 'er Done! God, it's hard not to quote Larry the Cable Guy when discussing excellence in cinema.

And there you have it, my top ten of the 2000s. I'm going to post shorter blurbs for 11-20 in one posting later (though you notice how much shorter my write-ups for the films got as it got closer to number one? I'm a lazy, lazy man) and then shortly after make a list of my favourite films of 2009.


  1. Hooray! Great list! Only half of them I haven't seen, and only a couple that I haven't heard of until reading about them. Looking forward to watching them now.

  2. Next time I see you I'll try and get you some of the movies that might be harder to find. I think you'll love Funky Forest.

  3. I have seen the theatrical version of Battle Royale - and I enjoyed it. Anyone that complains about the violence in that film is just squeamish, in my books.