Versus (Director's Cut)
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Year: 2000
TRT: 2:00

Reviewed: 6/27/04

If you are a fan of the samurai/martial arts/zombie movie, then this, my friend, is the movie for you. Kind of a narrow genre to exploit, but it does it pretty well. Sure, the story line is pretty thin, and the actors aren't too great, and the dubbed English translation is a bit turd-like, but this movie is about the action, and provides it in spades.

The initial premise is presented in (translated) text, and is great in its potential. There's 666 portals that connect this world to the other side that are concealed from all human beings. But some notice their existence, and somewhere in Japan, the 444th portal, within what's known as the Forest of Resurrection, is where the film opens an unspecified number of years ago for an initial samurai fight. Flash forward to a prison break in current day, and a meeting with a Japanese gang (ie yakuza). But it goes quickly awry when some of them are killed and come mysteriously back to life. Throw in a kidnapped girl, a couple of mentally unstable gang members, and a classic showdown between "hero" and "villain" that has an air of pre-ordained destiny to it, and you get a pretty, bloody mess.

While not the greatest of production values, this film provides some great choreography and some decent gore wrapped in some creative cinematography and editing. Some of the camera work is a little rough, but it really doesn't matter that much. While there is a bit of dark comedy worked in, there's a subplot with the cops that is more annoying than humorous (going for more of a "Western" audience, I imagine, and not really succeeding). That and the final sequence which seems tacked on unnecessarily, solely for the purpose of leaving it open for a sequel. Still doesn't detract from the shit-kickin', beer-drinkin' bloody-as-hell good time this movie provides.

Great Scene: The majority of the movie is based around fight sequences, and while it's nice to have a better plot to tie them together, the majority of the sword-based scenes are nicely done.

Media Notes: Not a bad disc put out by Media Blasters from the Tokyo Shock collection. Has a couple of commentaries with the director and cast in crew (in Japanese, subtitled in English), and some trailers for some rather odd-looking Jap films. Apparently there's a 2-disc version that includes some making-of footage of the film and some other extras, so you can knock yourself out with that if you can find it.


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