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The first film, Battle Royale, was a masterpiece of violence and irony, masterfully portraying the personalities of some 40 grade-9 kids who are left on an island to kill one another off until one remains. Amidst the quick pace of bullets and everything else (each kid was randomly given one weapon, ranging from automatic guns to pot lids), and the quick killing of all those kids, one after another, you are given a powerful glimpse at their personalities, and by some miracle, come out of this 95% action-filled movie with a clear memory of several key characters, their hopes, fears, quirks, aspirations and desperations. That film was simply an eye-opener to me, proving that you could have an action pack film that had so much character development in it too, continuously, through circumstantial and peripheral moments.
Kinji Fukasaku is considered a God of cinema in Japan and has done several classic Yakuza movies. He is to Yakuza movies in Japan what Sergio Leone is to Westerns here. Fans of Japanese director Takashi Miike probably have seen his recent Graveyard Of Honor which is a remake of one of Fukasaku's movies, made in 1975, which completely redefined this staple genre in Japanese cinema.
Well, when i finally saw the DVD at my local specialty Asian DVD store, i was very excited, and picked up a copy right away. I have been looking so much forward to the sequel to this incredible movie. Boy oh boy, was i disappointed. This sequel is not good. I had read how Kinji died mid-way through the filming, and that his son Kenta had taken over, but i figured, most of the movie had already been planned and written, so the son could not have messed it up: this was still going to be a Kinji movie.
It's always hard to tell in those cases why a movie turned out bad. For example, i always wonder why Stanley Kubrick's latest movie Eyes Wide Shut was just a good movie, instead of a masterpiece as Kubrick had gotten us used to so often. Many have said that the masterpiece was basically left on the cutting floor. Kubrick was renown for shooting pretty much exactly what he wanted to see in the final result, so it's hard for me to believe that Editing screwed up a masterpiece. Maybe he just didn't make a masterpiece that one time? We'll never know. And for Battle Royale 2, we'll probably never know either.
All i know for sure is that i had so many issues with the basic script and that i was left with barely a name to remember, or a specific character to think of from time to time once the movie had ended. This time around, you get half the action you had in the previous movie, with barely an ounce of character development left. And the action is not as visceral as previously, because you don't know the characters. This is the main issue with this movie: it tries too much to do something different, trying to not repeat the first opus, but in so doing, forgets all that made the first so successful. This effort just ends up being a common actioner.
After the events that took place in the first movie, Nanahara turns into a terrorist, blowing up buildings across Japan and trying to vent his anger towards the government. The irony is that he was completely created by that same government as per the events in part 1. The movie starts well and tries to examine this: through insane repression, the government has terrorized a group, which turns into terrorists themselves. The government gets tired and decides to launch an offensive to wipe out the terrorist group. The movie, briefly, turns into Saving Private Ryan with a D-Day-like assault, except that it doesn't have the brutal impact, and the budget, of Spielberg's 25mn masterpiece. One of the biggest problem is that the assault is launched by another grade-9 class, to repeat the gimmick of part 1. If the government really had wanted to wipe the terrorists out, they would have launched a more serious offensive. What in the first movie was a masterful story that pitted the close members of one group against each other, becomes here a story where 2 antagonist groups confront one another in a war-like development. In the end, we get treated to a half-hashed anti-American rhetoric. At least i think, because even when the movie tries to make some political point, it gets all muddied and unclear. In the end, those in the terrorist group who survived the attack take refuge in Afghanistan to help the Afghan resistance. OK...
Although filled with competent art direction and cinematography, there isn't one shot that technically amazes, not one scene that gets your heart pumping hard. There is no rhythm, and the music, which was so fantastic and so well used in the previous effort, is uninteresting and unmemorable. After over 2 hours of screen time, i was left bored and so disappointed. For the fans of Part 1, no bad review will change your mind about seeing this movie: all the bad reviews i had read definitely did not prevent me from buying the DVD anyways. For the fans, there are a couple of things that are of interest, but don't get your hopes high. For others, skip this, it's really not interesting.
- Laurent Hasson