The year is 2025 and scientists have mapped the human genome. Using the information derived from the study, they are now able to isolate the gene that causes ordinary human beings to kill. In an effort to study the cause and effect of this genetic abnormality teenagers identified as being “defective” are sent to an isolated island to undergo rehabilitation. Under this guise the government conducts rage experiments on their captives ultimately forcing them to kill off one another in a vicious game of cat-and-mouse. A small group of survivors who have banded together may hold the key to beating the primal impulses of the murder gene and discovering a way off of this island hell.
I know that the premise of this picture is eliciting groans this very second, but Kill Devil (Kill Onigokko) is actually an entertaining and interesting film that should be given some reasonable benefit of the doubt. Inevitable comparisons to the infamously shocking and socially critical masterpiece Battle Royale are justifiable to say the very least, but Kill Devil is not the heir apparent to Battle Royale’s legacy. Still, the film stands fairly solid on its own and offers a different type of commentary, more akin to Minority Report than Koushun Takami’s masterpiece of bloody satire. The film offers a sharp look at the role of government and reiterates the notion, if you could stop murder before it occurs, what would the societal ramifications of that power be and would you or could you condone its use?
The film’s three main characters Shougo (Masahiro Kuranuki), Osamu (Syunsuke Osaka) and Shiori (Yoshika Kato) do an admirable job of eliciting the sympathy of the viewer. I was most impressed by the performance of Kuranuki, who as the films catalyst, must come to the brutal realization about his chances for survival as he continually displays the capability of overriding the murder genes impulses. The characterization of Shiori is also one of mystery, as she holds a surprising revelation, which will lead their band of survivors to a tragic and unavoidable conclusion. This film is far from the violent spectacle that Battle Royale presented, relying more on mood and character identification to provoke audience response.
Like most Asian imports, Kill Devil is a wonderfully stylized production, featuring top-notch cinematography and some sparse, but effective, blood and guts. The fact that the film owes so much to Battle Royale might be considered a set back amongst genre purists, but I for one found it far less distracting than the constant barrage of raven-haired metaphysical ghost stories that have inundated the international film stage ever since the success of the Ringu. The film and the story had precious few original elements, but the execution and performances really strove to transcend the limitations of repetition. In the end, Kill Devil offers an engaging and periodically witty look at the ills of governmental science and human nature’s natural predilection toward suppressing our animalistic tendencies.