DVD reviews: Battle Royale (Arrow) | The Expendables


IT'S been ten years since Battle Royale first made a splash on the international festival and arthouse circuit. In the years since, the late Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku's nightmare, hyper-violent, dystopian vision of a future society in which random teenagers are marooned on an island and forced to fight each other to the death has become a firm cult favourite.

As much a comment on the changing nature of Japanese culture as it is a pioneering, full-on example of the type of extreme cinema that has come to dominate Asian cinema (or at least the cinema to which Western audiences are exposed), the film remains just as powerful as it was back in 2000, its relevance ever more frightening in the age of reality TV. Takeshi Kitano is on fine form as the embittered schoolmaster presiding over this horrific game, but what remains more disturbing is the way violence and killing quickly become normalised as traditional teen concerns and hormonally charged allegiances come to the fore.

Spread across three discs, this special anniversary Blu-ray and remastered DVD edition includes both the theatrical and director's cut as well as a wealth of behind-the-scenes documentaries and features detailing, among other things, the horrifying personal connection Fukasaku felt toward the material, as well as its subsequent influence on other film-makers such as Quentin Tarantino.

WATCHING kids go kill-crazy in Battle Royale certainly remains more entertaining than watching the has-beens of The Expendables fail to follow through on the title of Sylvester Stallone's disappointingly ordinary men-on-a-mission movie (pictured above). Despite being set in a world dominated by vein-popping, muscle-bound action heroes who blow people's torsos in half while invading small South American countries, Stallone blows his chance of making the ultimate guy-centric guilty pleasure movie by making it so wilfully rubbish.

Aside from the action god-like presence of Jason Statham – always a joy to watch cracking heads – the rest of the cast prove why they've been missing in action for so long, though that's unintentionally the closest Stallone gets to a decent joke. There certainly aren't any laughs to be had during the scene in which Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger share the screen for the first time. Playing more like a Planet Hollywood shareholders reunion than the action movie equivalent of Heat, it is thoroughly embarrassing. When Stallone has to resort to recycling gags from Demolition Man, you know he's in trouble.

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