Versus (2000) Movie Review

What “Versus” gives in place of a storyline is this: apparently there is a portal to some unknown dimension that promises good things for those who can open, and then enter, it. To achieve this end, an apparently unsavory fellow has hired some Yakuza thugs to help a convict escape. Everyone eventually ends up in the “Forest of Resurrection” where dead people become zombies.

How? There must be something in the water. Just kidding, of course. The movie never really bothers with something as unexciting as exposition. There’s a whole lotta fighting, swordplay, gunplay, and all manner of wacky hijinks. A lot of people die, some survive, and still others go on to change into — well, does it matter?

The convict turns out to be our hero, who has escaped from a prison truck apparently in the process of transporting him somewhere (I’d guess to another prison). To sum up a long story short: zombies come alive, Yakuza thugs get picked off, and a whole lot of bodies get chopped up, hearts get punched out of chests, and a crazed FBI-trained tracker gets shot with a gun that literally tears a hole in his body big enough to drive a truck through.

All in all, “Versus” delivers on its one basic promise: action, and tons and tons of action. This movie has, for lack of a better word, style. It is obviously a low-budget film, since there are barely any special effects of the computer variety, but many of the old-fashion practicals and gallons and gallons of fake blood variety. It’s gore at its finest, and it’s quite fine, let me assure you. Gorefiends will pray their eyes don’t fail them during the viewing.

That’s not to say the movie is cheesy or b-movie material. Oh no, there’s plenty of competence in the production, and the acting is not what I would call terrible, although I wonder how hard it is to just stand there looking cool. (It depends on the person standing, I guess would be the answer.) The camera makes people look cool, not the actors themselves. Well, not most actors, anyway. Directors like John Woo could make a mannequin look cool. And now, so can Japanese wunderkin Ryuhei Kitamura.

Here, the camera rarely stands still for longer than a few seconds, and the fights are choreographed with fluidity and a great sense of wonder that I haven’t seen in a while from an action film. The move is superbly shot and edited, and the use of music reminds me of Darren Aronofsky’s “Pi.” The soundtrack gets your heart thumping and the action gets your adrenaline pumping, and the whole thing seems to keep going and going and going…

And it’s all vastly entertaining. That’s really all you need to know. “Versus” is a vastly entertaing film without a single hint of substance to hinder its existence.

There is a twist at the end, although I can’t be sure what it means, since it seems to make everything in the film irrelevant up to that point. Oh well. At least it looked cool — which, I suspect, is the only ambition here.

Ryuhei Kitamura (director) / Ryuhei Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi (screenplay)
CAST: Tak Sakaguchi …. Prisoner KSC2-303
Yuichiro Arai
Kenji Matsuda

Buy Versus on DVD