Versus (2000)

  • Time: 119 min
  • Genre: Action | Fantasy | Horror
  • Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
  • Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Yuichiro Arai, Hoshimi Asai


Set in the present where a group of ruthless gangsters, an unknown woman and an escaped convict have met, unwittingly, in The Forest of Resurrection, the 444th portal to the other side. Their troubles start when those once killed and buried in the forest come back from the dead, with the assistance of the evil Sprit that has also come back, come back from ages past, to claim his prize. The final standoff between Light and Dark has never been so cunning, so brutal and so deadly. This is where old Japanese Samurai mysticism meets the new world of the gangster and the gun. Gruesome, bloody and positively bold.

One comment

  • Ryuhei Kitamura’s hyperactive video-game-brought-to-life Versus has a huge cult following and is absolutely adored by its dedicated fans, so I’ll say state straight off the bat that I loathed almost every second of its exhausting 120-minute running-time. The film is chocked full of the kind of hyper-kinetic camerawork doing 360 degree spins around its leather jacket-wearing characters, who frequently pout and brood in an attempt to look cool, that cinema was swamped with in the wake of the huge success of The Matrix (1999), which itself was heavily inspired by Japanese cinema. But Versus has little grip on its muddled mythology, and the result is a gory, tiresome mess.

    The story informs us that their are 666 portals on Earth that connect this world to the ‘other side’, with the 444th portal located in the Forest of Resurrection in Japan. Centuries ago, a lone samurai battles a few shuffling zombies before taking on a powerful priest who, with minimal effort, kills him. In the present day, two escaped convicts arrive at the Forest to wait for a gang of Yakuza who will take them to safety. One of the prisoners, #KSC2-303 (Tak Sakaguchi), becomes immediately suspicious of the Yakuza’s intentions when they arrive holding a kidnapped girl (Chieko Misaka). The prisoner kills one of the Yakuza, who immediately comes back to life as a zombie, and flees in the forest, taking the girl with him.

    There is no doubting that Versus is occasionally a treat for the eyes, with the editing in particular impressing during the numerous fight scenes. But the fights come one after the other, quickly becoming tedious especially since every battle is introduced by the characters posing while the camera swirls around them for what seems like an eternity. It doesn’t help that all of the Yakuza are the type of preening morons seen in a thousand other films, strutting around in sunglasses and awful flashy suits and failing to pose any kind of real threat. The protagonist is also difficult to like – a generic bad-ass played unconvincingly by Sakaguchi, who seems to enjoy frequently knocking out the girl he has rescued as he fights the bad guys. It’s meant to be darkly humorous, but instead feels simply misogynistic. At 2 hours, it’s a headache-inducing struggle to get through, and is recommended only for hardcore fans of cult Japanese cinema.

    Rating: 1/5

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