The drunken man is chained to the wall of the police station, waving a picture of his wife and child, donning the goofy angel wings he bought for his little girl as a birthday gift. His name is Dae-su Oh, which he tells us means “getting along with others” — something he has definitely not been doing, since he was hauled in for groping someone else’s girl and starting a fight. His long-suffering friend, all too used to Dae-su’s philandering, comes to bail him out. Outside, the friend steps into a phone booth to call Dae-su’s wife, and in that moment Dae-su simply vanishes.
He is not dead — instead, we see that Dae-su has been spirited away and locked up in a strange little prison that resembles a grubby hotel room. He has a bed, shower, table, dresser, kitschy art and TV, but no phone and no knob on the door. He has no contact with his captors, who simply open a slot and shove in take-out Chinese food once a day. Every now and then they gas him, change his clothes, cut his hair, and redecorate the room. He will be in this room, as Dae-su tells us on the soundtrack, for the next fifteen years of his life, and will emerge as hardened and fanatically disciplined man bent on revenge.Read more
The original Battle Royale was one of the most audacious movies I’d ever seen; it used pulp-movie violence as a way of making uncomfortable points about the way society preys on its own. It was in a class by itself, and the unashamed way it treated its subject matter guaranteed that it would never be seen in the United States. Its massive (and surprising) success in Japan guaranteed a sequel, and sure enough, two years later — after the horrors of 9/11 and the subsequent responses to it — a sequel has been released, designed to capitalize on both the success of the first movie and the grimness of the times.
The bad news is that all of this ambition has not produced a worthy movie. In fact, it has produced a downright awful one. Battle Royale II: Requiem is a failure on the level of Resurrection of the Little Match Girl, so wrongheaded and inexplicable it defies rational explanation. First, it’s a retread: its setup and payoff follow almost exactly the same pattern as the first film, so the shock of surprise isn’t as great. And second, its points about terrorism and warfare are so muddled, so hamstrung by the movie’s lack of basic logic or real understanding of its subject matter, that it’s hard to tell what the real point is. That terrorism is bad? That the people who fight terrorism are often just as bestial as the terrorists? That there are stars in the sky?Read more