Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Yuichiro Arai, Hoshimi Asai
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Plot: An escaped convict trying to escape both his captors and a strange array of undead zombies discovers he is a resurrected samurai warrior returned to fight his evil brother from gaining untold powers.
Review: Versus is one of those films that bite you when you least expect it. To say it's a Japanese samurai / zombie movie, or a sword-and-sorcery tale, or a simple action flick would be like saying a souped-up roadster is just another car. Taking note from such films as
Evil Dead 2, The Matrix and
Highlander, while throwing in some typically Hong Kong excess and American zombie films, the filmmakers prove that sometimes energy and inventiveness make up for other limitations such as time and budget. Money constraints do force the film to take place in the forest, a setting that's pretty bland, but they make the most of it, with some very dynamic (almost excessively so) camera-work and super-fast editing. The general tone is one amused excess, and there are a lot of nice touches along with the slapstick, gross out comedy, but it also manages to balance out just the right amount of
schlock value, elaborate wire-fu, standard martial arts, and
humor to make it interesting and consistently engaging. In fact, there's not a dull moment to be had anywhere, and the film manages to keep the adrenaline running throughout (no easy feat). Sure, the dialogue is limited, the plot all rather confused, and the characters barely make a blip, but no matter; This is a definite exercise of style over substance, an excuse for some well-staged, energetic fighting, gun fights, posing, and blood-letting. The filmmakers are fans of the genre and it's obvious this is a work of love for the medium. Everyone involved seems way too cool and collected, somehow, for all the bizarre stuff that's going on, but they sure look good. The whole one-minded affair ends up with a frenetically edited, climactic fantasy swordfight that will leave your head spinning. As said before, there's a good deal of obvious influences from the flowing leather coats, to the crazed viewpoints but it's a very slickly done package, and one that's clever and highly entertaining. All told,
Versus is a pleasant surprise, a real gem of a low-budget action fest that's sure to be a genre fans dream.