Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Two escaped convicts, a ruthless gang of Yakusa mafia dudes, a hot dame and a shady villain find themselves in a forest where the dead come back to life. Guess what happens? You bet we get all kinds of relentless martial arts fight, zombie gore action, crazy swordplay and enthralling gunfights. YIPPEE!
Slap Evil Dead, Night Of The Living Dead, Highlander, Mortal Kombat and The Killer by John Woo in a blender and you get Versus. This overly stylized, kooler than kool action/gore bonanza amused me gangbusters! You know that rush you get when you play those kool fighting videogames or when you get a well-executed head job? Well get ready for some of that same juice here. The first 75 minutes of Versus took me on one hell of a ride. I’m talking crazy martial arts fist to cuffs, edge of your seat gunplay, all kinds of macho kool posturing and gore galore. Yep, this is a plasma drenched wet dream come to celluloid.
On a story level…well don’t ask me too many questions cause I didn’t fully get it. It starts off as a mafia like movie, then takes the zombie carnage route to finally take the Highlander battle of the immortal highway. People come back to life all the time, reincarnation comes into play, some dude needs some other dude’s blood and the hot chick is responsible for some of it somehow. ARRRRG! What’s going on???? Now even though I didn’t fully grasp what was going down in this circus of flying limbs, it didn’t make much of a difference. Every time I’d start using my grey matter, some out of this world hyper violent POW POW/SLASH SLASH jamboree would kick in to distract me.
One other element that also made the non-sense digestible was lead ass whooper Tak Sakaguchi. His presence alone elevated the picture to a higher level. Now he’s my type of antihero! A dude that sports his slick leather jacket so well that he always knows when to flamboyantly flick it in the air like a cape for that extra kool effect. This hombre is the real thing (I heard he’s actually a real Yakusa) and his retrained/focused performance had me by the ying-yangs. Also the fact that he kicks ass like the best of them was a BIG plus. You go by main dami!
Now the film does have faults apart from the messy narrative. My main pet peeve is that the flick doesn’t end when it’s on top of its game. It stretches its thin storyline for a half an hour too long. That half hour, no matter how exciting, felt a tad testing at times. I also wasn’t too fond of the film’s humor; it just didn’t do it for me. That hysterical banshee like dude (Minoru Matsumoto) didn’t die fast enough for my liking and the over the top Asian “Christopher Walken” wannabee Kenji Matsuda was funny at first but then started irritating me with his overdone facial acting. Take a chill pill dude! Last but not least the movie has one too many subplots (like those two dudes driving around) and in consequence too many characters join the party. That slowed the movie down. It could’ve been all so much tighter.
But in the end Versus still won me over with its insane fight sequences, its overly kinetic directing, its extreme amount of karo syrup and of course its so slick you’ll want to be him lead Tak Sakaguchi. It won’t win any screenplay awards but sometimes un-adulterated entertainment can take you a long way. If you dig your horror and dig your Asian Kung Fu candy take a swing at Versus.
So much gore, so little time. Its safe to say that if you dig dudes getting split in half, punches through the head, heads being blown off, a guy cut in half and bullet hit galore, you’ll be content here. This one breaks the gore charts.
Tak Sakaguchi looks kool, acts kool and he’s got the fighting skills to back it all up. YOU GO BOY! Hideo Sakaki is a worthy nemesis to our hero; he’s subtle and focused. Minoru Matsumoto annoyed the shit out of me. Its not his fault, he was just playing his part but it was a badly written one. Even though Kenji Matsuda got a few smiles out of me, his scene chewing irritated me on occasions.
T & A
Zilch, nathing, zero.
Only the Asians are able to take action to this extreme. I’m talking relentless camera movements, slow motion, fast motion, sharp angles and style like you wouldn’t believe. If you enjoy stylized visuals…well…DIG IN!
The score here is very varied and changes its tone very often. Fortunately it always fits the images it’s backing up and is very engaging.
You like it loud, flashy, gory and in your face? Versus might be the tramp you’re looking for. Yes the screenplay is all over the freaking map but the film’s exhilarating action, it’s excessive gore and its psychotic visuals made it all worthwhile. Lets just hope that Hollywood doesn’t feel the need to remake this one…why do I sense it coming though? Ugh…
Here’s what the opening title card of the film says: There are 666 portals that connect this world to the other side. These are concealed from all human beings. Somewhere in Japan exists the 444th portal.... The forest of resurrection.