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Versus (JAPAN 2003)

Director : Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast : Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda, Yuichiro Arai, Minoru Matsumoto, and Kazuhito Ohba

A pair of escaped convicts meet up with a group of gangsters by a remote forest road. After an argument over a girl the mobsters have kidnapped, shots are fired and one of the gangsters is killed. The standoff is cut short, however, when the dead man suddenly springs to life and starts trying to kill his former friends. The zombie eventually goes down in a hail bullets, but their problems aren’t over. It seems the gangsters have been using this forest to dispose of of their victims, all of whom are now looking to settle some old scores. Even if they get through this mess, there is still the question of why they’ve arranged to meet the convicts out here, and why they’ve brought along the girl. How are they connected to the dead bodies coming back to life?

by Edward Tang

I give this movie a perfect score, 5/5 because what it does, it takes an unfamiliar plot and mixes it in with zombies and pure action. I’m a pushover when it comes to flicks like these, completely over the top destruction and a few comedic moments here and there. Versus is a great film because it is non-stop entertainment, backed on with a plot that looked good and delivered the goods in an easy, but interesting way. I’m a realist, films like this aren’t made every day, and when they are, you can’t help but smile and enjoy what you are seeing on the screen. Give me this any day over the dreck I continue to waste money on, every time I got the local theater. Okay, maybe not that bad, but Ben Affleck or Keanu Reeves as an action hero? Give me a break, and a kit kat bar as well. As Versus remains off key, and totally out there with some of the stuff that they dish out, I was asking for more the entire time. Seeing that Kitamura has green lighted the second installment, he better not let me down, I don’t think that my childish lust for blood and zombies can be contained for much longer! (Note: Don’t feed the animals)

So when the film begins, I didn’t care for it that much. It looked like it was going to be another worthless Yakuza movie (The first time I saw it was on a plane, it cut out the beginning moments with the samurai and began with the prisoners escaping). Basically as it moved along, and when the guy turned into a zombie, my interests were peaked. As we got into the story, we learned of the connection between the girl, the man and the prisoner. I thought it was at least an interesting approach, why continue to bask in the boring, familiar Michael Bay vehicles when you can have Zombies? Answer that question, and you get a prize. I’d rather see a Samurai take on zombies and prevent his enemy from opening a portal rather than Bruce Willis flying to destroy a meteor. (Armageddon sucked). But as the film got along, the action was noticed the most, and I thought anyway, that the main bad guy “The Man” was pretty damn cool as well. We end with the familiar guy saves girl and destroys bad guy, but do we? 99 Years Later, it seems that everything is not what it seems, and obviously it leaves this bad boy open for a sequel.

Tak Sakaguichi played the main character, more or less. His approach to the kickass prisoner, who was a former samurai was pretty decent. The guy was a old-fashioned dude as well, he didn’t mind to hit women but when someone else did, oh boy, they sure didn’t live to long after it. Tak is okay, not the best, and I just almost threw ravioli at the screen as he puts on the shades in a cornpone Tom Cruise way like from Mission Impossible 2. Please, anytime I’m reminded of MI2, I lose another tooth. Hideo Sakaki plays the villian, an awesome guy with great power and someone not to mess around with. He sold the role to me as he was talking to the girl and then begins to laugh when he unveils his plan all along. Chieko Misaka plays the Girl, and she was good for her role as well. She plays the basic girl, she gets beat up, saved, and even makes a good crack at the end. “I Should have been on your side”, ah yes, fucked up didn’t ya? The other only prominent mention probably goes to the guy in the green suit, who was pretty damn funny, and the guy they refer to as little runt, who just gets pistol whipped about 15 times. Those guys added to the comedic dimension that films of this caliber never tend to try and tackle.

I always enjoy films that have a bunch of little pieces from different genres. Case in point, this flick can be considered a: Samurai! Action! Drama! Comedy! Horror! Science Fiction!

Hell even a bit of romance in thrown into the flick, to make it seem that it has a little more that everyone can enjoy. Action sequences can be a bunch of different ways, bloody, fun, messy, whatever. This flick has all of those in some shape or form. I mean, to let everyone know who hasn’t seen it, they zombies truly aren’t anything of a match to the humans. They basically walk around like idiots and wait to get shot. But the sheer fact that there are zombies in a film like this, is the reason that it succeeds. Seeing the comedy they sprinkled over some of the more serious parts made the film even better. Nobody would take this film seriously if they saw it, and that is what makes it great. Sure we are talking about opening a portal to another dimension, but we can still have a guy with one hand point with his nub and then realize that he doesn’t have a hand there.

The final battle, long awaited in the decrepit mind of a person who just loves when the stage is set and when everything is coming to a close. The final battle in a film such as this has to be memorable, or it would make a very handsome person like me forget that this film had worthy moments throughout. It does succeed for the most part, it seemed to go by fast, and had typical results. I also hate the flashback thing during a fight, and they use it to an advantage here. Evil is slayed and we await for a few more lines of dialog until we reach the finale. The director truly has some skills, as I saw from Azumi recently, his films are enjoyable to the point that I could watch them again and again. Rewatchability is the number one aspect that I look for in flicks, if I can watch it again and it still remains as a good film, that is all that matters to me (the film does have to actually be good, remember).

What to say about Versus? It has a strange plot that is easily saved by great direction and truly great scenes of action. Hell I was smiling the entire time as well, that is something I rarely do. (I’d go blind if I saw my pearly whites). But all and all, this film delivers shiploads of entertainment that many films that have tried the same direction have failed. See it and take it for what it is, and you’ll find yourself enjoying a film that has zombies and hand-less police officers.

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 3/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- The Man versus Prisoner KSC2-303

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Versus

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