One of the advantages of owning a region free DVD player is seeing films that are completely unavailable in the USA.  Certainly, some movies aren't released here because the interest isn't strong, but after watching the shocking concept movie, Battle Royale, it's clear that Blockbuster Video won't be carrying it anytime soon.

Imagine Survivor mixed with The Running Man, with a bit of Saved By The Bell thrown in for good measure, and you'd have a pretty good idea of Battle Royale.  In a future where unemployment and morale are at an all time low, the Japanese government insitutes a new law that requires a random high school class to be drugged and brought to an island where they're forced to fight each other to the death over a 4 day period.  If anyone thinks of refusing, special collars around their neck will explode. 

Each student is given a survival pack that carries a weapon.  As you can see from the picture above, they range from deadly pistols, to useless items like binoculars and pot-lids.  The body count is broadcast on the island over loudspeakers, and if by the end of four days, there's more than one survivor, everyone will die.

It's actually a pretty fascinating look at relationships and the will to live.  Imagine if you were thrown in this situation with your classmates.  There'd be friends you'd want to stand by, enemies you might be happy to eliminate, and maybe even someone you're in love with.  What if it came down to the two of you?  Would you mercy kill the partner, to avoid having their head blow up in front of your face?   These twists make Battle Royale far more intriguing that the American slasher films we've grown accustomed to.  Indeed, with a tagline, "Can you kill your best friend?" there's an uncomfortable element that's rarely been explored in film before.

This couple early on can't bear with any of the possible outcomes, so they end up jumping off a cliff.  Others just stick together and see what fate will bring.  The movie is full of interesting twists and surprises, with an ending that you wouldn't expect, either. 

It's also the last film from the late director Kinji Fukasaku (The Green Slime, Tora! Tora! Tora!), who died of prostate cancer just 5 days ago. 

Battle Royale was released in Japan in 2000, but I can't imagine with the school shootings and sniper headlines that this could be marketed successfully in America.  Though I'm sure that the fine folks at Disney will buy the rights to remake it stateside, and turn it into a buddy pic with Eddie Murphy and Jackie Chan somehow.  If you can pick up an import DVD (you can get it stateside through HKFLIX.com or eBay for a reasonable price), or manage to catch it at some cool art house theater, check it out, it's worth the hunt.

And if you don't have a region free DVD player, some software like POWERDVD and others will disable the region encoding on your computer's DVD ROM so you can watch it there, too. 

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