Versus

Versus is a breathtaking cross of martial arts action and horror with a liberal dose of dark comedy thrown into the mix. The film features gunplay, sword fights and gore galore with the classic battle of good versus evil as the backdrop. A group of Yakuza meet mysteriously in the Forest of Resurrection where the dead are returning to life and a struggle for the ultimate power ensues.

The seemingly complex plot concentrates on Prisoner KSC2-303. He is one of two escaped prisoners who rendezvous with a group of Yakuza in the forest. An argument which spills into violence soon develops as the Yakuza have kidnapped a girl and our hero takes offence at this. After the first dead guy returns immediately to life the characters begin to realise something is not right in this place and before long everyone is mixed up in a huge battle.

The hero of the film

As the action progresses and our Yakuza have to face a wave of zombies, re-animated corpses of rival Yakuza they buried in the forest, some new characters arrive to join the fun. There are police chasing the escaped prisoners, a group of dodgy killers and the big boss himself who is thoroughly evil, virtually invulnerable and dead set on attaining the ultimate power by killing our hero and the kidnapped girl.

There is no doubting that the plot is ridiculous but it takes a backseat to the action as we are treated to almost two hours of intense, gory battle. Director Ryuhei Kitamura has clearly been influenced by Sam Raimi´s Evil Dead series and he also uses flourishes of style which bring John Woo to mind. For the most part the action is well-choreographed; some of the set-piece deaths feature true horror style gore while the black comedy takes the hard edge off the extreme violence.

The acting is quite mixed Tak Sakaguchi does a great job as the hero and Cheiko Misaka is super cute as the female hostage. Hideo Sakaki is the villain and he also turns in a quality performance full of menacing looks. The Yakuza gang and the police are another matter as many of them seem to overact their parts and add a slightly farcical feeling to the events.

The villain of the film

The film opens with a flashback and we are treated to several more as the story unfolds. These are set a few hundred years ago and feature stunning historical outfits and weaponry; these sequences are simply dripping with style and provide a nice contrast to the modern incarnations of the characters.

Once all the characters have arrived the plot becomes apparent and you realise it is a simple battle between good and evil. The script is pretty straightforward and mostly manages to avoid over-explaining things, you are not given loads of pointless information and there is little in the way of character development instead you get incredible action which is sustained at an unusually fast pace throughout the entire film.

As a piece of stylish violence this film works brilliantly and the lack of substance goes unnoticed as hugely entertaining fights occur in quick succession. The direction is very varied which keeps it feeling fresh, the acting is mostly good and the gore is fantastic. If you like your action slick and your zombies bloody then watch Versus and give yourself a treat.


Reviewed by Simon Hill

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