It’s called Versus, yet there is only one person in the poster. Hmm…

Versus is a bizarre movie. Nonsensical, even. It’s a super low-budget cult film featuring cops, gangsters, shootouts, samurai, zombies, martial arts, karate zombies, sword fighting, and demons. It’s like the director grabbed a list of “cool shit” from the internet, and mixed it all together, hoping it would work. And depending on your point of view, it either totally works, or is a complete fucking mess.

Director Ryuhei Kitamura filmed this in 2000, and it certainly shows. Versus comes from a time when the tone of movies was more focused on wacky hijinks and slapstick humor, which is a big departure from today’s films when everything is a GRRR DARK AND GRITTY exercise in moroseness. I suppose if Versus had played it straight, nothing would work. The whole thing is just too goddamn crazy. The lighter tone is there to remind the viewer to not take it too seriously, otherwise the movie collapses in on itself. The closest thing I can compare this to is Evil Dead II. It’s got plenty of madcap antics and off-beat humor, mixed in with a semi-serious plot. It isn’t really clear whether Kitamura is completely aping Sam Raimi’s directing style, or paying homage to it.

Eye see you.

The zombies in Versus are a mix of traditional lumbering zombies, and other zombies who can shoot guns and know karate. This begins fairly early in the movie, so depending on how ZOMG AWESOME you think karate zombies are, you will either love or hate Versus from this point forward. Personally, I thought it was pretty funny, and for me it worked. I can’t think of any other movie where you can see zombies shooting machine guns, or humans roundhouse kicking zombie heads off. At least it earned a few points for originality.

Zombies are so fucking played out it’s ridiculous. If I see one more goddamn person wearing a fucking zombie t-shirt or talking about the zombie apocalypse, I am going to puke. Zombies need to go back in the ground, and stay there for another three decades. They’re even more overplayed than vampires at this point. Anyway, Versus came out in 2000, well before this new zombie resurgence was fashionable. In 2000, there were 11 zombie films made. In 2012 there were 47 zombie films made. This shit is well past ridiculous. One movie comes out and is a big hit (the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead), and then everyone in the movie industry has to do the same shit. COME ON MOTHERFUCKERS, DON’T ANY OF YOU HAVE ORIGINAL IDEAS? YOU MUST HAVE AT LEAST ONE BRAIN CELL! USE IT FOR A CHANGE!

Watch out, karate zombies, here we come.

The action scenes are non-stop blood and guts. Heads explode, holes get blown through torsos, limbs are severed, and fountains of blood erupt in just about every action sequence. Nothing is safe from getting soaked in blood, not even the camera lens. Versus certainly doesn’t hold back when depicting its own particular brand of carnage. While the over-the-top action may be hilariously cool, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the blood is really fake CGI, and the props are cheap and obvious. For a low-budget cult movie, this may be exactly what you want. But if that kind of thing distracts you from your movie viewing experience, you are not going to be able to watch Versus.

Another problem is that Versus is really fucking long. At 2 hours and 10 minutes, it definitely overstays its welcome. Some of the fight scenes seem endless. And when the characters aren’t fighting, the dialogue and story are so threadbare, they can’t hold the movie together. So, Versus is stuck in this shitty situation where it has so-long-they-become-boring fight scenes, but when they aren’t fighting, the movie sucks so hard you wish they were back to fighting again. It’s an endless cycle of shit.

Machine gun, check. Sword, check. One eye, check. Perfect hair, check.

Like I said before, when watching Versus, your mileage may vary. If you are really into the whole low-budget, cult-film thing, you will probably like it. If you love zombies, you will probably like it. If you think over-the-top humor and crazy action is great, you will probably like it. However, unless you fall into one of those three specific groups, you will probably HATE this movie. If you like good stories, good acting, sensible plots, and don’t like the juxtaposition of clearly disparate things, you will not enjoy Versus at all.

The biggest obstacle to enjoying this movie is the fact that it tries to employ too many things. Kitamura threw all this shit in a blender, and didn’t have a clear, streamlined vision of what the movie should be. It’s a perfect example of what’s wrong with the film industry. They manage to take one or two ideas that might work, and then THROW IN A SHITLOAD MORE IDEAS BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HAVE TOO MANY IDEAS. When this happens, they can’t dedicate the time to developing one or two ideas well, and they wind up with several, poorly developed, incredibly shitty leftovers.

Ladies and gentlemen, your cast of villains.

Versus is a hard movie to rate. I enjoyed the karate zombies and the weird sense of humor. I also enjoyed the well-choreographed fight scenes. However, the movie draaaagggssss at times, and is way too long for its own good. The acting is also completely ridiculous. Combining all of these factors together, rounds this out to be an average watch. Good to watch drunk, but not otherwise.

Verdict: Average

This post is part of an ongoing feature, Japan-O-Rama, at one of my favorite sites, Paragraph Film Reviews. Be sure to head over there and check them out.

19 Responses to “Versus”

  1. May 24, 2013 at 8:58 am

    Yeah this movie really shifts between cool and boring. The worst part is the boring location, which is basically just the woods.

  2. May 24, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    There were only 11 zombie movies made, ever, in 2000? Holy shit.

    Man, I haven’t watched this in years. The first DVD I got (I later bought the director’s cut) came with a shirt, which I just now realized I haven’t seen in a long time. I want my shirt.

    I wish I could remember the movie. I do remember lots of karate-ing and lots of trees. Have you seen 2LDK? Same director. He and another Japanese director decided to have a competition to see who could make the better movie under specific conditions. Something like, it had to be about two characters in conflict in a single location. I forget the details, but it’s easy to look up. 2LDK is pretty awesome, I think. I hope Versus holds up for me when I go back to it.

    • May 25, 2013 at 10:57 am

      As far as I know there were three DVD releases, the original cut, director’s cut, and ultimate edition. I have the ultimate edition, which has some reshot footage and “improved” special effects. Although, the special effects are still really cheap and cheesy looking. Anyway, it’s definitely a fun movie to watch, but alcohol certainly enhances the experience. I hadn’t heard of 2LDK before, I’ll check it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. May 25, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Karate Zombies! I probably coudn’t sit through 2hrs and 10 minutes of this, the eyeballs alone gross me out. But Karate Zombies!

  4. 8 Rei IV
    May 26, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    LMAO, you REALLY should get paid doing these types of reviews!

    Honestly, whenever I’m in a pissy mood, it makes me LOL so much when I read this blog, and this coming from someone who doesn’t necessarily share your opinions! The only Ryuhei Kitamura film I’ve EVER seen has been Godzilla Final Wars, which unfortunately proved to be somewhat of a disaster for the Big G’s 50th anniversary (it was in 2004 and he directed it) and I’m guessing some of your criticisms of Versus may reflect the reception for that movie as well. Just reading it makes me realize that Godzilla Final Wars was styled in similar way the Versus was. Campy and all that, but pound to piss of folks and leave them disappointed.

    • May 27, 2013 at 10:05 am

      I’m glad that this blog makes you LOL, it’s a great compliment. Thanks. I haven’t seen Godzilla Final Wars, because I’ve never really been into Godzilla. But I can totally imagine how Godzilla would look if directed by Kitamura. In fact, I’m sort of intrigued now, and may have to track that one down.

      • 10 Rei IV
        May 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm

        Go for it. You don’t need to be fan of Japanese monster movies to get some kick or amusement out of it, although I must warn you, the film is 2 hours and 5 minutes long and you’ll probably find yourself squirming or getting impatient at many moments in the film. Specifically those that are taken directly from The Matrix, and from various Kung-fu and Hollywood movies. LOL, I shit you not. It’s more or less how you described Versus, which I may need to check out……If I ever stop being squeamish about gore, lolz.

  5. 11 lokifire
    May 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

    Aw, gee, Brik, Versus is just average? I mean, I love you and all, but this makes me sad.

    • May 28, 2013 at 8:02 am

      When I first saw this movie a decade ago, I probably would have rated it “Awesome.” But I’ve grown far more crotchety in my old age. In all honesty, I did debate between a score of “Good” and “Average” and it’s obvious which I ultimately chose. But I still enjoy watching this film from time to time.

      Or maybe, just maybe, this was all part of my evil plan to finally get you to comment on my blog! Mwahahahahaha!

  6. 15 Paragraph Film Reviews
    May 31, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Hey man, thanks so much for getting a review together for PFR – much appreciated, and love seeing everyone’s take on these movies.

    I’m like you, love the cool shit that happens, but end up scoffing and lolling (in a bad way) at the overall product. All I remember from my last viewing (about 4 years ago) is a load of spinning camera angles, zombies firing guns, and the worst mindfuck of a rubbish ending in Asian Cinema.

    Still, both gave it similar scores in the end, which I’ve got a Marshal stiffy about.

    • May 31, 2013 at 7:38 am

      Marshal Stiffy, lol! I love the Justified reference! 🙂 I found your old review of Versus, and was surprised at how close our scores were on this movie. Japanese cinema for me is really hit and miss, either love it or hate it. This movie seems to encapsulate both of those feelings at the same time. It’s kind of incredible, really.

  7. 17 g
    February 16, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I regret to say that they are making a possibly american sequel.

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May 2013


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