Battlefield Baseball

Directed by: Yudai Yamiguchi
Year: 2003
Running Time: 87 minutes

Let me start out by being kind. There are seemingly a number of people who like this film and make postings to various sites lauding the movie for its clever tongue in cheek irreverent send up of the sports mentality in Japan. There are also a lot of people who are shut ins, eat peanut butter sandwiches every day and collect lint for a hobby. I suspect there is a correlation between these two populations. Rarely have I experienced such a boorish and amateurish effort as this (well, except for Bush in the debates of course) that hits you over the head repeatedly with its lame attempts at humor. This is comedy for electro shock patients. Or maybe I just don’t get it in the same way that Beavis and Butthead never appealed to me much. I am old fashioned about humor – it should be funny – not stupid. This film aims for stupid and hits it like a procession of Texas beauty pageant contestants.

Perhaps my main complaint though is this was exactly what director Yudai Yamiguchi was trying to do. His goal here was to make a cult film. This was my issue with “Wild Zero” as well though that was a much more ambitious film than this. Cult films should be accidental – serious efforts tempered by artistic incompetence – but that’s not the case here I suspect. It was more like lets take Zombies and mix it with baseball – add in some really bad over the top acting along with clunky action choreography - and we have a film that has “cult” smeared all over its face like a drooling idiot. Nothing against drooling idiots of course. I just don’t want to spend 90-minutes with them in my living room.
Yamiguchi has worked with the currently ultra-hot, ultra-hip director Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus, Azumi, Aragami) as both an assistant director and a scriptwriter – and Kitamura returns the favor by producing this film – but Kitamura’s films are all about kinetic visual movement and slashing camera motion - they aren’t really smart films – but they constantly delight and surprise you – but Battlefield Baseball actually goes out of its way to downplay all of these elements. Every time you think the film is finally revving up to have some out of control visually bombastic adrenaline driven fun, it cuts away and returns when the action is over and the outcome is displayed. Whether this was driven by a miniscule budget or as a cheap laugh I am not sure but by the third time I was more than a little frustrated by its tease with no follow through. Worse the film doesn’t actually have any baseball in it! But to be fair again, the film wasn’t at all what I was expecting – if you go in expecting a Farrelly like comedy with the subtlety of an air raid on Baghdad, this may very well be more enjoyable. And it needs a lot of good will from the viewer to overcome its limitations – sort of like the kid who knocks on your door on Halloween with only a paper bag covering his head and still expects a treat.
Poor old Seido High School - all they want to do is get to the big baseball tournament at Koshien and bring the trophy home for school and glory. They learn though that their first opponent is the dreaded Gedo High who they lost to some years previously. Not lost the game mind you, they lost their lives. Gedo High are a bunch of chainsaw hacking, neck breaking, face ripping zombies whose motto is “there are no rules in the game”. So before the umpire even gets a chance to bellow out “play ball” they attack their opponents and kill them. I wish these guys would play the New York Yankees. They were banned for a while for this little indiscretion, but they are back again. Once the baseball loving principal hears of this he goes into a terrible depression and wants to take his team out of the tournament – but upon the scene comes a new student – Jubeh (Tak Sakaguchi)  - an incredible pitcher – with a fastball that literally goes through you – with a reputation of being a killer. Trouble is he doesn’t want to play any more having had a horrible experience earlier in his life – which he breaks out into song about and is the only inspired moment of the film. Still they persuade him to return to the sport he loves and they decide to take on Gedo High. Many limbs later . . . .
This is pretty much the plot of the film, but there are loads of absurd threads brought in that should have been funny but just fell flat for me – like the mother (played I think by a man?) of the wimpy but determined ball player Four Eyes (Atsushi Ito) who refuses to allow him to play and beats the hell out of him when he does with her kung fu skills – or the character who keeps dying and coming back being played by a different actor  - or the satiric soap opera moments in which there is all of a sudden a crowd present that breaks into applause as a dramatic resolution is made to choir like music – or the three cheerleaders doing pom pom displays during the rumble. In more facile hands perhaps these would have felt cleverer, but this just feels sophomorically crude at times with little flow from scene to scene as it takes on a skit like sensibility. Still this was a debut work from the director and there is enough uniqueness in here to make me curious about what he will do next.

My rating for this film: 5.0