I was really unsure about buying this film, as it seems that most of the reviews given are written by people who either loved the film, or hated it. However, I realised that this was the same with Azumi- one of my favourite films, and seeing as it was cheap, I bought `Versus' nevertheless. And I LOVED it.
The story is that two prisoners have escaped and are waiting for a getaway vehicle in the woods. However, when the getaway car arrives (Filled with really cool Yakuza) it also contains a woman, who, along with one of the prisoners, is the key to opening a portal in the forest. The forest they are in is known as `the forest of resurrection', because whoever dies there, comes back to life as a zombie. As the prisoner flees (the other prisoner is killed) with the woman into the woods, dead bodies that were dumped by the Yakuza come to `life' for some of the greatest and funniest action scenes I've seen in a long time. It turns out that the prisoner and woman are reincarnated people who are needed in some ritual to open the portal. (The problem with explaining all this is that none of the characters have names).
The characters are, in one word: cool. Tak Sakaguchi plays a great (and handsome) lead role as `the dark hero'- it's great to see a hero who isn't completely good. Hideo Sakaki is a great villain- strong and powerful. There are also Kenji Matsuda and Minoru Matsumoto who play the comical Yakuza who create a good few laughs. Kenji is particularly funny to watch when he has become a `hyper-zombie'- hilarious. Then, there are the two cops from which the prisoners escaped played by Shoichiro Masumoto and Yukihito Tanikado, who are entertaining as you watch them bumble about. I couldn't mention the word `cool' without talking about the character played by Yuichiro Arai. He has it all; sunglasses, motorbike, fingerless gloves and a revolver.
The action scenes are great, and are sometimes comical. Although sometimes the shots are so fast that you can't tell what's happening, it's generally clear who's-fighting-who and what they're doing. The shooting scenes are fun and there is no shortage of blood. However, the hand-to-hand combat is sometimes a little unrealistic. A lot of the fights go on for far longer than they would in real life- but more fast-paced action is nothing to complain about. It wouldn't be a Kitamura film without the Katana showdown between hero and villain, which happens at the end of the film.
The storyline is a little difficult to follow, mostly because some of it is not explained very well, if at all. Although, I love the reincarnation idea. We are shown the characters in the present, although we see about five minutes in their past reincarnation and, at the end of the movie, their future reincarnation. It's great to see what the characters looked like in the past, and what they'll look like in the future.
I think that something else that needs noting is the humorous jokes throughout the film. One of my favourites is one of the cop's attempts to dodge a rocket from a large gun with the famous `Neo's bullet dodge'. He leans backwards just like Neo does, but instead he just blows up.
Something else that I thought was worth mentioning was the `making of' extra on the DVD. Most foreign movies have perhaps a trailer and that's about it, but this `making of' is entertaining and interesting to watch. It's about half an hour long, shows footage from shooting, and reading scripts, and talks about some of the problems they encountered whilst shooting the film and how they overcame them. The story of Tak breaking his tooth was a particularly interesting one.
This is an eighteen film because of the swearing, and the amount of gore and violence. Unlike Azumi, which involves a lot of blood but no gore at all, this film has plenty of it. Things such as people having their hearts ripped from their chest or being punched through the head are a couple of the gory parts in this film. Although, this film fits in the action genre more than the horror.
Generally, this is a really good film. As long as you don't take it seriously, and ignore the plot holes, this film is a great action movie filled with plenty of fighting, blood, gore and cool weapons. I think it's great that there are still action movies that don't try to appeal to a larger audience by excluding violence and blood. There should be more movies like this.