Battle Royale (2000)

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Could you kill your best friend? That’s the dilemma that faces a class of 15yr old students in Japan. Their class think they are going on a school trip, however the reality is that they have been chosen at random to take part in a new scheme. The scheme which has been dubbed the ‘Battle Royale Act’ by the government involves the whole class fighting to the death. Their teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) tells them they are all to be tagged with an explosive collar that will detonate if removed. Then they are given a map and a bag containing food and water plus a randomly selected item, which could be a weapon like a gun or a knife, or something useless like a frisbee.

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At first the students think it to be a sick joke, that the government wouldn’t be sick or crazy enough to make them kill each other, but it’s not a joke. Crime is an epidemic and the youth are seen to be the cause of it. The government has been running the scheme with great success, and seem willing to continue it. Now before anyone says this isn’t a rip off of The Hunger Games, as this is over a good ten years older than that rubbish. This is a far more sophisticated beast, and one full of real violence and mayhem.

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At first the students try to resist harming each other, but it’s futile. Mainly down to the fact that the island they are on has been split into sectors. Each day another sector is made unsafe, and if a student remains there, then their collar will explode. So sooner or later they will meet in the centre of the island.

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This is a fantastic film. Directed by the late, brilliant Kinji Fukasaku, it’s bristling with menace. You can’t understand that a government would ever sanction something so bloodthirsty, but you can kind of understand the desperation in tackling youth crime. The sequel which was directed by Fukusaku’s son is terrible. It is just a car crash of a movie and is painful to watch. It’s obvious watching it that the talent for directing ended with Kinji. I definitely recommend this for anyone who has never seen it. If you can, seek out the directors cut which adds a little bit more flavour to proceedings.

5/5

JM

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Zatoichi (2003)

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This film is up there in my top five, hell it may even be number one. Takeshi Kitano who created Takeshi’s Castle and who was a big TV comedy star, writes, directs and stars in this sublime movie. He plays Zatoichi the blind swordsman. He travels across the country posing as a masseuse, but is also an expert fighter. He shuffles along lulling would be bandits into a false sense of security, but can strike like a cobra when the occasion calls for it.

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Zatoichi comes across a town which is run by two warring gangs. He meets a load of different people all with their own problems and agendas, who need Zatoichi’s help. As he goes about helping the townsfolk he becomes the focus of a mysterious gang boss who hires a ronin to kill Zatoichi, not realising what Zatoichi is capable of. The characters in the movie are just brilliant. All have their own quirks and Takeshi Kitano manages to infuse the film with humour and warmth, all while keeping the tension bubbling till the final showdown. Zatoichi finds himself unwittingly causing problems because of his keen senses and apparent calm demeanour.

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The action in the movie is simply breathtaking. Many have moaned about the CGI blood in the movie but it honestly didn’t bother me. The way Zatoichi dispatches a group of bandits with ease really has to be seen to be believed. There is so much happening in the movie, be it the little musical beats that the workers in the field work to, or the banter inside the gambling den. It is a movie that can be enjoyed time and again.

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Every person I have showed the film to loves it. The final showdown is amazing and gets me giddy every time I see it, it’s just fantastic. To top it off there is a fantastic tap dancing sequence after the movie has ended. It has nothing to do with the story but it works so well, it really is just an astonishing feat in film making. You owe it to yourself to see it.

5/5

JM

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