Versus was a make-or-break film. The title apparently refers to the director’s struggles in the movie industry, but it is equally apt at explaining what this film is about. You have the good guy, the damsel in distress, and the bad guy along with his minions. Bad guys want to kill good guy and get the girl. Good guy kills them, leading towards the inevitable confrontation with the prime antagonist. Got all that? Good. This is pretty much Versus, but with guns, martial arts, zombies and a few other colourful elements thrown in for taste.
Sometimes writing about a movie is very easy. You can explain them in fairly few words and sell their awesomeness without letting any cats out of their bags. But sometimes you can’t do that at all. This is not to say the movie in question is a brain-bender or experiment in surreal insanity. Like trying to capture an amazing live band’s performance in a series of sentences, some films just are not meant to be taken in any other way than to experience them. Alas, the editorial status quo demand more words than “This is goddamn awesome – GO WATCH IT ALREADY!!!”…
As said, Versus was supposed to be the last hurrah for Ryuhei Kitamura. It wasn’t, instead paving the way for him to direct stuff like Azumi and The Midnight Meat Train. Still, at the time he was a broke director with a pitiful budget and one last chance to make cinema history. So he threw his favourite genre elements together – a bit of samurai lore, some martial arts, Yakuza bad guys, a dash of science fiction, dollops of slapstick, the walking dead, John Woo-worthy gunplay and so forth. The final result: one of the most significant action films that has ever come out of Japan – an industry already known for its interesting skop-skiet-en-donner faire.
You can’t really summarise Versus on the sum of its parts. After all, ‘mobsters in a firefight with zombies’ only says so much. Some things you have to see in action. Japanese movies can often overindulge, as well as throw rather culturally-nuanced comedy and characters at you. Often that just creates a mess for Western brains. But not this film. Oh, it does all of those things. Yet you’ll love it. Plus you can finally point people to a movie with subtitles that won’t make you look like a foreign film snob.
Last Updated: September 2, 2013