Royale II: Requiem
Fortunately, the depictions of combat with which the film is punctuated are frequently well realized and even genuinely captivating. Admittedly, a number of them do plagiarize sequences that can be found in other movies, such as George Roy Hill's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but they are filled with such nasty but exhilarating violence and suffused with so much emotion that they are able to engage the viewer.
While these sequences make up a large portion of Battle Royale II and do keep it moving, they are inserted among so much that is utterly dreadful that they simply cannot redeem the film. The movie really is grossly bloated with equal measures of overwrought melodrama, clumsy preaching, hammy acting, and dull lethargy.
Fukasaku repeatedly inserts often incomprehensible and invariably pretentious speeches into the mouths of his characters, which, even when they make sense, are so tedious they are sure either to annoy the viewer or to lull him into a stupor. What is worse, while the first movie included unspoken reflections on human nature and implied criticisms of the director's own society, which were able to heighten the feelings of horror and tragedy he evoked in that work, the sequel either babbles nonsensically or confines itself to criticizing the faults of other societies. While every culture is both flawed and worthy of being criticized, criticisms of a given society by a member of another are generally intended merely to demonstrate the superiority of the critic's own society. Such criticisms, as a result, tend to have an arrogant falsity that alienates the viewer rather than engages him. They certainly have a blindly nationalist tone here.
Even without its endless diatribes, the film is bursting with so many other shortcomings that it would still be dreadful. For instance, the director's attempts to reveal his characters' emotions are, without exception, horribly clumsy. Over and over again, he does so by making use of the most melodramatic devices, including dolorous music, histrionic acting, slow motion, flashbacks, and the like. As a result, instead of being affecting, such moments are, at best, laughable.
Regrettably, the elements which elicit these odd uncomfortable smirks may well be among Battle Royale II's most entertaining. A very large part of the film is poorly constructed and horribly uninteresting. Drowning in such interminable tedium, the moviegoer is likely to grow so impatient with the story that he is actually irked by it.
While Battle Royale II's action sequences are engaging, its numerous faults make it a far from successful movie.
Review by Keith Allen
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