Synopsis: A handful of mysterious Japanese women take part in a deranged web show that makes them strip off their clothes when they lose a round of Mahjong. When there is nothing left to hide, the losers secrets are revealed and the nubile contestants must take their punishment. Can anyone survive, or keep their clothes on, in the dangerous game of STRIP MAHJONG: BATTLE ROYALE?
eyelights: the quirky concept. the bubbly hostess. the sexy bits.
eyesores: the quality of the production. the performances. the minimal plot.
A friend of mine is a HUGE board gamer. He’s also a big fan of games like go and mahjong. One year, for his birthday, I put together a package of a bunch of game-related movies and music.
Yes, sigh, ‘Battleship’ was one of them.
But so was ‘Datsui-mâjan batoru rowaiaru’.
Known in North America as ‘Strip Mahjong: Battle Royale’, it caught my eye when it was reported upon on one of the entertainment sites I peruse daily. Damn… a movie of mahjong and boobies?
It was the perfect gift!
The low-budget picture, which was released on video in 2011, has a simple premise: four young women have been kidnapped and are forced to play mahjong against each other for a game show.
Only the winner will make it out alive – and with 10 million Yen to boot!
Naturally, they don’t know why they were chosen, but the reason will come to light as the game wears on – that and some of their secrets, as they are forced to reveal themselves in various ways.
It’s a simple film with very little plot: it consists of watching the four player try to outdo each other while being taunted by the game show host and his hostess, who give a play-by-play.
That’s probably the most enjoyable part of the picture, as the commentary is zealous and weird, as only the Japanese can make it (anyone who’s watched Japanese gameshows will understand).
We’re talking picture-in-picture, props, you name it!
But watching people play a game isn’t exactly riveting stuff; I couldn’t ever fathom watching a poker or chess championship, for instance. So a game that I’m not familiar with? Even less.
Thankfully, the play-by-play helps to keep us up to speed with the strategy the girls adopt, and we’re also privy to their thoughts so that we have a better sense what their intentions are.
This also helps to flesh out the characters a little bit, given that they don’t exactly have heart-to-hearts during the match. They only really talk amongst themselves when they’re in conflict.
But we get to know the characters a bit more when they’re forced to strip, which means taking them to a small cell, where the gameshow host finds unique ways to make them talk. And strip.
Because, yeah, of course there’s stripping involved.
It wouldn’t be strip mahjong otherwise.
But it’s not sexy.
Coercion is not really my thing, so watching the girls get forced to strip because they had losing hands didn’t do much for me. And the one time a girl was eager to strip, it was super lame.
As can be expected, there was some gratuitous sex, with one of the players getting whipped lightly on her butt, and two others being given the option of having sex together in exchange for release.
Naturally, they agree.
Ultimately, though, it wasn’t enough to excite or interest me. Part of it was the presentation (weak production, director and performers) and part of it was the context of the mahjong game.
Perhaps if I understood the rules of mahjong, then possibly ‘Datsui-mâjan batoru rowaiaru’ would have been slightly more compelling. People can watch poker, so maybe it would have worked.
And with a a little T&A to boot, who knows?
But I’m loathe to recommend it to anyone except devotees of the game and of no-budget movies. You really have to appreciate both to get anything out of this picture. Its quirks aren’t enough.
Unique though the end result may be.
Date of viewing: February 6, 2017