Monday, May 5, 2014

BOP Recommends... VERSUS

Across the Earth there lay 666 portals, all of which connect this world to the next. In Japan exists the 444th portal; a place called The Forest of Resurrection. This is the exact spot where a group of Yakuza are picking up two escaped prisoners. When one of the prisoners -- a mysterious man known only as Prisoner KSC2-303 -- offs a Yakuza thug after discovering they've kidnapped a girl -- things start getting complicated in the Forest of Resurrection...
Many genre films from Japan have been labelled "live action anime." Some of have succeeded, most have not. It's hard to strike that weird tonal balance between crazy and coherence, with everything feeling like one solid piece and not zipping all over the place. What Director Ryuhei Kitamura(The Midnight Meat Train) does though is strike that balance. Even if he didn't really intend to.

Toss together: zombies, gun play, sword fighting, martial arts, zombies with guns; crazy Yakuza guys all with different dress, fighting style, and personality; A supernatural destiny and the fate of the world hanging in the balance; A weird off the wall and totally cartoony side story involving two cops(one of which lost his hand when the prisoners escaped and walks around with a bleeding stub that doesn't seem to bother him), and you have the makings of a damn CLASSIC. Did I mention zombies with guns? Or what about the Yakuza hit squad of ninjas that show up? Zombies with guns? I cannot stress that last part enough.
The magical thing about it all is none of it comes across as completely ZANY, just a bit absurd. Versus knows exactly what it is and what it's going for, in that Army of Darkness vein. Kitamura pretty much just said "the hell with it," and went with everything he ever wanted to do. For instance, the main character comes across a guy strung up with barbed wire on a tree, and steals the dead guy's badass leather coat and black pants, and badass music plays as he puts them on. Yes, the story and characters are nowhere near deep and are totally ridiculous, for the most part, but it feels like that's exactly how it SHOULD be. I wouldn't have it any other way. That wouldn't be VERSUS.

Of course, I was sold the minute the Yakuza guys come across the area where they dispose of all their victims, and said victims come to life and start attacking them.
Versus is not a movie for everybody, most niche cult classics aren't. But if you're the kind of person looking for long and crazy action scenes, a cool slick style, sword and kung-fu fighting, a tone somewhere between Highlander, Evil Dead, Dead Alive, and a Tarantino movie, with Big Trouble in Little China not far behind, then... well...


Box Office Pulp Recommends... VERSUS.


- Mike Napier

NOTE: This has been about the Director's Cut(AKA Ultimate Versus) and not the theatrical -- which I have not seen.