Saturday, October 11, 2014

RYUHEI KITAMURA'S VERSUS: These zombies use guns and know kung-fu!

VERSUS is a hyper-kinetic, ultra-violent, low budget kung-fu, Yakuza vs. zombies masterpiece.  The movie makes no sense for the most part but you would hardly notice with all the body parts flying around.  The movie is sleek and cool with precision camera movements.  There are fights and gore galore with very little boring romance to get in the way.  If you like gun fights, sword fights and fist fights with zombies and mobsters involved then VERSUS is the movie for you.

So there is a Forest of Resurrection where a small group of Yakuza have brought a newly escaped prisoner and a young woman for some unknown purpose.  They wait for the boss to show up but things get complicated when they discover that the dead are coming back to life and our hero the prisoner escapes with the young girl.  The bad guys follow but realize that they bury a lot of their victims here so they got to deal with that too.  Worse yet these zombies can use guns.  Whoops.  When the boss shows up he wants to fight the prisoner to the death to open some portal to the netherworld where he will become all powerful.....probably.  The movie is very vague about the details of what is going on.  All you need to know is that the prisoner is "good" and the boss is "evil" and they have to fight each other every so often in different lives.

VERSUS is a low budget but it is hard to tell because it is so well filmed with it's elaborate fight sequences and shots.  The fighting is perfectly framed and thrilling to follow.  The movie cuts corners with it special effects by using the editing process to it's advantage.  A bad guy can appear and reappear without the use of digital effects by simply showing a person's reaction to someone disappearing before their very eyes and find them in the same shot.  Director Ryuhei Kitamura is a genius with this and the rest of his directing style.  The camera moves quick but precise capturing the important moments of motion to generate his hyperactive visuals.  You get so much of what is going on with the action with being shown so little.  There was a lot of thought put into each shot of the film.

The movie is far from perfect.  To be honest the story seems to make itself up as it goes.  There is a certain ritual that must be performed through a series of events which leads up to a final battle between good and evil.  The evil boss performs part of the ritual but nothing happens and he is stunned but then he goes about himself like he knew it all along.  Why go through the hassle of performing a ritual that you know won't work then act like you are surprised that it didn't and then say that you knew it all along?  You have to see it for yourselves to get the full gist of what I am saying.  Now I am being vague.  Also this is a movie about people fighting in a forest for two hours.  Does the movie really need to be two hours?  These are small gripes though.

If you do watch the film then I would recommend the UNRATED cut and not the R version or the UNRATED DIRECTORS CUT WITH NEW FOOTAGE FILMED AND INSERTED INTO THE MOVIE JUST LIKE GEORGE LUCAS DID WITH THE STAR WARS version.  Its not worth seeing what was added in.  The new shots stick out like a sore thumb and it makes what is already an overly long film even longer than necessary.  The new footage is impressive with new fights but really it is not needed.

With the film performing a 180 on the audience with it's characters this film screams for a sequel but if it hasn't happened by now it probably won't.  Shucks....


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