Battle Royale is a modern classic of Japanese filmmaking, a mesmerising blend of anthropological science fiction and teen angst, spliced together in a blood soaked frenzy. Battle Royale II: Revenge is a by-the-book sequel, crowbarring in all of the memorable features of the first movie, spicing them up with even more ludicrous ultra violence and adding a few new twists to the tale. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it manages to completely fall flat on its face.

Three years after the catastrophic failure of the Battle Royale programme a new Millennium Anti-Terrorism act is declared: Battle Royale II. Once more a random class of students will be whisked away from their everyday lives to join in battle, only this time their goal is not to kill each other, but to exterminate Shuya Nanahara, the survivor of BR and leader of the Wild Seven terrorist group, committed to a war on grown-ups. But when the time to pull the trigger comes, will they take him out - or join him?

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In the opening scene, Shuya Nanahara and Wild Seven, wearing kuffiyeh and porting AK-47s - full on terrorist chic - admit responsibility for the bombing of several skyscrapers and then declare war on all grown-ups for being murderous bastards. So begins the preposterous, and somewhat tasteless, silliness that is Battle Royale II.

We are quickly introduced to the contestants and the new danger - explosive collars; a highly original concept - and then they are delivered to Wild Seven's totally secret island lair to take them out. It's all very familiar looking, mixing graphic styles that resemble budget versions of Fight Club, Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now, with a heavy MTV spin, all mashed up together in a way that really, really wants to be Battle Royale.

It feels like every element of the original movie was noted and every box ticked, but the sum of these parts has not resulted in a film of equal quality. For instance, the role of the Teacher has been changed from the psychotically deadpan Takeshi Kitano to the maniacally camp Riki Takeuchi and the Shuya character has turned from a boy striving for peace into - well - a teenage Rambo.

Some would cite the unfortunate death of director Kinji Fukasaku near the start of filming for the dire quality of the movie and the completely muddled storyline, but the biggest failing is the underlying concept. It doesn't have the same visceral thrill of the original, where it was every teen for themselves, kill or be killed. It showed a full range of people from the nakedly selfish loners, stopping at nothing to carve their opponents up with anything they could lay their hands on, to those who believed in true friendship right up to the point where their best chum riddled them with Uzi bullets.

In BRII they have to stick together and support each other - kids versus the world - which removes all the tension and creativity from the action and the film is suffused with touching moments of contemplation, mourning the tragic passing of those too young to die. The film's entertainment value is suffocated and the lack of individual character development means that the viewer's empathy in these heart-rending scenes is nonexistent. Rather than blackly satirical, like its predecessor, it feels preachy and obvious. The knee-jerk anti-war and heavily anti-American sentiments expressed aren't insightful enough to be interesting. Is it possible that this seriousness is a parody of other anti-war media? If so, the irony is spread fairly thin.

If BRII had had a complete cinematic lobotomy, it would have been tolerable, but the sheer volume of insipid philosophising and pitiful acting manages to push what could have been a derivative, entertaining action movie sequel into a tedious mess.

Reviewed on: 12 Jun 2006
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Battle Royale II: Requiem packshot
Japanese high school kids are forced to hunt down a dangerous renegade, or die.
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Keith Hennessey Brown **1/2

Director: Kinji Fukasaku, Kenta Fukasaku

Writer: Kenta Fukasaku, Norio Kida

Starring: Riki Takeuchi, Takeshi Kitano, Sonny Chiba, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Ai Maeda, Shûgo Oshinari

Year: 2003

Runtime: 134 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Japan


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