I’ll never forget when I saw “Battle Royale” at the BAM Cinematek in Brooklyn in 2001. I left the theater on high, exhilarated, somewhat shocked and pleasantly surprised, and actually engaging in a mock kickfight with a friend I hadn’t seen in years who also showed up at the one-time screening. So much for the film’s pacifist stance. A crazy, violent Grand Guignol where high-schoolers dressed in proper private-school attire play out their adolescent crushes and grudges to the death with crossbows and machineguns, “Battle Royale” is a real treat. And I had always expected that some small distrib would bring it to little rep houses. (Now, of course, it’s readily available on DVD through various websites.)
Years later, the New York Times has now published a well-reported story about the fate of the film, and a possible New Line remake. Confirming what I recall, the article points out that a high-price tag for the U.S. rights may have prevented the original film from getting seen wider here.
But the article also goes into depth about the difficulties the film is having getting turned into a U.S. blockbuster — and the concerns among fans and Asian remake maven Roy Lee that the film will become mere exploitation.
Although to tell you the truth, I’m not sure I believe the original shouldn’t be defined that way. How is Battle Royale that different from a U.S. teensploitation pic like Final Destination? I admit I’m no student of the genre, but I think it’d be difficult to muck up the outrageous, guilty pleasures of the original. Then again, leave it to Hollywood to turn gold into dreck.