Battle Royale (2000) Director: Kinji Fukasaku

Battle Royale is the original and the best of the kids-killing-kids-in-horrific-and-extremely-violent-ways flicks. The recent release of The Hunger Games has reignited interest in Kinji Fukasaku's Japanese cult classic, but this may be too extreme for some. Battle Royale is brutal and upsetting, with doomed Class 3-B fighting to the death and only one survivor able to go back home. The violence is relentless and extreme. The camera shows all. It's FULL ON. And it's bloody great fun.

Our heart follows Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara) as the main emotive character who is still mourning his father who committed suicide, and his true love - the gentle Noriko (Aki Maeda), who he swears to protect throughout the abhorrent 'game'. We also grow to love the other classmates as the film puts them into an incomprehensible situation which brings out the best - or the worst - in people; sweet Yukiko (Yukari Kanasawa) and Kusaka (Misao Kato) try to bring peace by waving white flags, but are machine gunned to pieces by the gloriously manic Kiriyama (Masanobu Andô); Yamamoto (Yasuomi Sano) and Ogawa (Tomomi Shimaki) cannot face what is ahead and see no way out, so jump to their deaths off a cliff; emotionally scarred girl Mitsuko (Kou Shibasaki) turns into a mean and keen killing machine, and Kawada (Tarô Yamamoto) is a Battle Royale survivor who doesn't willingly come back for another go and shows his compassion to Shuya and Noriko.

Playing 'God' and hyperactive game show host throughout is Battle controller and Class 3-B's ex-teacher Kitano (Takeshi Kitano) - he brings comedic elements to a heavy-going film, such as shooting arrows through students who ask too many questions at the Battle briefing, or showing them what happened to their current teacher. Battle Royale is a punishment system for curbing uprising and 'naughty kids' in an alternate totalitarian state, and the orientation video is presented with gusto, smiles and cuteness by the lovely Training Video Girl (Yûko Miyamura).

As a film - despite the blood and guts, if that's not your thing - it works; at the centre is a true love story, a fight for survival and a moral tale of what people are actually capable of when you are put in a situation where it is kill or be killed. What you are unprepared for is the emotion - there are death scenes which are truly heartbreaking, such as the unrequited love for Kotohiki (Takayo Mimura) from Sugimura (Sôsuke Takaoka). She kills him by accident and he expresses his love for her as he dies.

It's a great piece of fast-paced, emotional filmmaking which will have you gripped, horrified and rooting for Shuya and Noriko to survive despite knowing there can be only one survivor of Battle Royale. An uncomfortable element now is that it is difficult to watch a group of young people being gunned to death on an island (was that ever easy to watch?!) following the atrocities of Anders Breivik, and the similarities of his crimes and this film are disturbing. But if you take Battle Royale for what it is - a bold, brave and clever movie - this is far more credible and worth watching than The Hunger Games.

5/5 explosive collars