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Overall Rating
4.3

Awesome67.5%
Worth A Look: 2.5%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 2.5%
Total Crap: 2.5%

1 review, 34 user ratings


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Versus (2000)
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by Brian McKay

"Gun-toting Samurai! And Zombies! And gun-toting Samurai Zombies!"
3 stars

While the Hollywood influence on modern Japanese cinema is undeniable, it’s also questionable whether that influence brings out the best or worst . . . or perhaps both? Take, for example, the film VERSUS, a meandering mish-mash of HIGHLANDER and the MATRIX with more than a dash of EVIL DEAD thrown in (including monster-cam shots that zoom through the woods and one attempt at the lean back bullet-dodge that goes humorously awry). And while on many levels it is a poorly written, hammily acted, cheaply produced piece of crap – damn, it’s got some good ass kicking!

The premise of Versus (and I say “premise” because a word like “plot” would be far too grandiose) is that there are 666 portals in this world that lead to an alternate dimension of power which may or may not be Hell. In Japan, the 444th gate lies in what is known as the Forest of Resurrection (How, or even if, the numbers of these gates bear any importance remains a mystery). Of course, the “Forest of Resurrection” could just as aptly be called the “Forest of Remaining Under-Budget”, because as directors such as Sam Raimi, Dan Myrick, and Ed Sanchez could tell you – filming a movie that is 95 percent set in the woods is dirt cheap!

To this forest come two escaped criminals wearing jumpsuits with the slogan LAWBREAKER humorously splashed across them in a vertical line from the left shoulder to left knee. Where they escaped from or how is not only unimportant but superfluous. They end up running into a car full of thugs who have kidnapped a pretty young woman and who have been ordered to recover the hero of the piece, known only as “Prisoner KSC2-303” (Tak Sakaguchi). It appears that the main villain needs both his blood and the blood of the kidnapped girl to complete some ritual or some such bullshit and open the 444th portal to the alternate dimension and receive what is defined in the most vague of terms as “The Power”. The Power to do what, exactly, we don’t know – but there’s power out there, damn it, and they want it!

The hero rescues the girl after an over-stylized shootout. Some of the thugs get killed, only to come back to life a minute later and attack whoever happens to be within arms reach. The various characters split up. They encounter a ton of zombies (the area being a known dumping ground of post-murder corpses) who do the traditional zombie shuffle, but while toting guns and swords. The main villain shows up. Some other people show up, and you’re not sure if they’re villains or not, but by now you really don’t care as long as some of them start fighting in the next scene. What remains is a series of badly overacted segues and contrivances, as characters keep having random encounters with each other in the woods, indulge in a brief verbal exchange, and then proceed to kick, shoot, and stab the shit out of each other – only for the loser to come back to life as a zombie and start the process all over again. Along with all the Matrix gun and sword play, there is plenty of campy gore and not-so-subtle references to a myriad of American sci-fi/horror/action genre films. The villains are extremely cartoonish and way over-the-top, the hero spends more time looking like he’s striking a pose for the cover of G.Q. than giving someone a beat-down, and the heroine runs around in a white sweater that remains spotless, even though everyone around her ends up splattered in blood. (oh, and I’m no Mister Blackwell, but I’m pretty sure that whole “matching belt worn on the outside of the sweater” look went out sometime in the late eighties/early nineties).

Of course, it’s easy to play the “parody” card in the defense of Versus – since it is arguably just that. However, even a parody should be cleverly-written and consistent in tone, which Versus is not. One minute it mugs for the camera like a class clown, the next it petitions our respect with some skillfully assembled and entertaining action sequences – and it almost earns it.

What versus does surprisingly well is the action – with two-fisted gun battles, plenty of kung-fu, and the climactic duel of high-tech katanas (but why would a sword need a trigger guard built into the handle?). There are also enough giddy moments of cartoonish gore and successful bits of intentional humor to keep the pace of Versus sufficiently brisk. However, the inconsistent tone, and long, drawn out segues between action, almost become the undoing of Versus.

Although genre fans will probably find VERSUS worth checking out, don’t believe all the fanboy hype about how this film is better than THE MATRIX. Note to film geeks: Not every film that copies THE MATRIX action template and adds a few new wrinkles is instantly “as good as or better than” THE MATRIX. However, if you’re craving some cheesy but fun Samurai action with a fairly high lead content, then this is for you. 3.5 Stars.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=8119&reviewer=258
originally posted: 09/02/03 15:35:05
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 New York Asian Film Festival For more in the New York Asian Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

User Comments

1/12/11 moose rapper Fuckin' sweet as hell! 5 stars
3/17/09 Josie Cotton is a goddess This is what 'Kill Bill' wishes it could be 5 stars
9/22/06 Yakuza14 Totaly sweet! All the actors are so dreamy, and I can't wake up ^_^ 5 stars
8/10/06 melivorous big guns + zombies+yakuza+reincarnation= Genius! 5 stars
8/26/05 Termite Ryuhei Kitamura RULES!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/25/05 Copper The coolest, funnest, craziest, wildest, action-packed thrilled ride you'll ever see!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/24/05 salamone The best time you'll ever have at the movies...well...EVER! A total blast! 5 stars
8/22/05 MC Serch It ain't Shakespeare, but it's a whole hell of a lot of fun... 5 stars
8/22/05 Chumscrubber To quote Apone from "Aliens", this movie is ABSOLUTELY BADASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/20/05 marv The coolest movie EVER MADE...well...almost... 5 stars
8/20/05 Cardigan What does everyone have against this film?! It RAWKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/19/05 Gaston A cool, funny, stylish, kick-ass time at the movies. 5 stars
8/19/05 JiJi Aside from too much comedy, movies just don't get much cooler than this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
6/30/05 ash I loved it! 5 stars
6/15/05 R perfect date viewing for when you just don't know how to tell a girl, "i'm not interested." 3 stars
5/18/05 K. Sear Fun but, the plot is weak as hell. Watch it for the ass-kicking and you won't be let down. 3 stars
5/14/05 y2mckay Midnight - suck my balls. If you want a GREAT Kitamura film, check ARAGAMI 3 stars
2/04/05 axe What're you, a preacher? 3 stars
10/23/04 The Voice of Midnight Brian McKay: you're ridiculous. You do not critique, but whine and berate. You're idiotic. 5 stars
10/21/04 Judah the best movie ever 5 stars
8/21/04 mai xiong hell ass best movie ever!!!!! Even though it was loe bidget, it still has a good story line 5 stars
7/21/04 kaboomcycle this is a great movie with great style i like the end fight very much 5 stars
6/23/04 kevin i doubt that any of you could sit through the whole thing, it's boring as all hell 1 stars
5/05/04 dead next door THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE EVER MADE,BRILLIANT. 5 stars
2/28/04 Rei I <3 this movie! No matter how many times u watch it, it just keeps getting better & better 5 stars
12/28/03 RenegadeBushido This yakuza zombie action movie is awesomely outrageous 5 stars
12/07/03 Max Carnage Hideous acting. Great action, no story. Move along. 2 stars
10/05/03 john holdsworth highly entertaining, a must see. 5 stars
9/30/03 Vik Awesome movie. Definitely not what I expected at all. 5 stars
9/25/03 malcolm gangsters, zombies and karate? i'm in! 4 stars
9/03/03 ^ZuLu^ Even if it had no money to spend it was fun and different! I liked it! 5 stars
9/03/03 Kyle Fuck yes! 5 stars
9/02/03 LoudChris Evil Dead meets Jackie Chan 5 stars
9/02/03 Joey better than the first 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Aug-2003 (NR)

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