Battle Royale II: Requiem review

The biggest thing to hit Japan since the Kobe earthquake, Battle Royale was the stuff that cults are made of: a visceral orgy of splenetic violence, built around an irresistible conceit (children ordered to massacre their classmates on a remote island) that satirised both reality TV and the bloodlust inherent in Japanese culture. Teenagers camped outside cinemas to see it, politicians tried to ban it and Quentin Tarantino paid homage to it by casting schoolgirl killer Chiaki Kuriyama in Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

Three years on, Kinji Fukasaku is back - in spirit at least - with an equally violent but more thoughtful sequel to his iconic original. Completed by his son Kenta following the director's death from bone cancer in January 2003, Requiem initially seems less of a follow-up than a remake. Hell, it even recreates the kids' booby-trapped neckwear, ready to blow the heads off any students dumb enough to break the game's rules. Post 9/11, however, the relentless mayhem comes with a hefty helping of anti-war polemic. Relentless is certainly the word for the film's main set-piece, a beach assault on the `Wild Seven' hideout that lifts Requiem into Saving Private Ryan territory. The Fukasakus maintain this breathless momentum for the next hour, dispatching a good two dozen teen commandos before we even know their names.

Around the halfway mark, however, the chaos ebbs away to let a touchy-feely bond develop between the terrorists and their would-be assassins. It's here that Fukasaku Sr's deathbed desire to make a positive statement gets the better of him, his characters becoming mere mouthpieces as they lambast fascist superstates that send kids like them to their deaths.

Thankfully, though, the film rallies in time for a delirious climax - but seasoned Royale heads may feel it's too little, too late.

Weighed down by some pretentious and operatic passages, Requiem nonetheless delivers plenty of wanton carnage. Let the battle recommence...

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