A group of teenage schoolkids is deposited on a deserted island for the express purpose of killing one another in the hope of individual self-preservation. That might sound awfully similar to the plot of the upcoming "Hunger Games" movie due out in the spring, but it's actually the description for "Battle Royale," the 2000 Japanese film that has become one of the essential cult movies of the new millennium.
Incredibly, the film is getting its first U.S. theatrical run starting Saturday at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre. (Consider it holiday season stress release viewing.)
The film was the last completed work by the then seventysomething director Kinji Fukasaku, known to American audiences for his work on the WWII aerial dogfight action picture "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Even directors half his age would be hard-pressed to match the go-for-broke energy in "Battle Royale," adapted by Kenta Fukasaku (the director's son) from a novel by Koushun Takami, with its extremely violent, wildly funny and totally bonkers sensibility. (Kinji Fukasaku passed away in 2003 while working on a sequel.)
Actress Chiaki Kuriyama would again don a schoolgirl outfit to play the brutal killer Gogo Yubari in "Kill Bill: Vol. 1" made by Quentin Tarantino, an avowed "BR" fan. Iconic Japanese actor and director Takeshi Kitano fuels the film's satiric undercurrents with his typical laid-back intensity.
"BR" is widely available on DVD, but this is a rare chance to see the film in a theater. As extra enticement, there will be a special "cosplay" screening of the film on the 30th, with discount tickets to those who arrive in costume, so break out the school blazers, knee socks and odd track suit.
The film plays through Jan. 2. For more info, visit www.cinefamily.org.
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: "Battle Royale." Credit: Toei Co.