Versus (2000) – Film Review

versus film review main

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka
Certificate: 18

By Roger Crow

If you like your martial arts epics with a sci-fi touch, then Versus is just the sort of full blooded yarn worth investing in.

With its bone-crunching, bloodletting, crash zooms and weird angles in the first few minutes, director Ryuhei Kitamura sets his stall out early.

versus film review coverIt’s one of those films that really wants to mix up its genres. Part gangster epic, part fantasy, part samurai yarn, with a score which sounds like it was composed for a video game.

“Lone warrior”

Things really get going with a mysterious face-off in a wooded clearing between two escaped convicts and sharply dressed yakuza holding a woman captive.

It ends in hails of bullets and showers of blood. All of which is pretty generic, even in 2000. The welcome twist is the fact it takes place in the mythic Forest of Resurrection, the site of the 444th portal of the 666 hidden gates that link this earthly domain to the netherworld. Did you not get the memo? It’s a thing apparently.

As one of the surviving prisoners escapes with the girl into the forest, miffed gangsters soon become the least of their worries as an earlier battle between a lone warrior against hordes of zombie samurai is carried over from a millennium ago into the present day.

The plot is pure manga; I can see it working equally as well as an anime, and full marks to a besuited green-shirted villain. He’s gloriously loopy. One foot on a tree is one way of dispatching the bad guys I guess. And his smart threads deflect dirt better than Alec Guinness’s Man in the White Suit.

versus film review japanese

“Glorious lunacy”

The demure heroine (Chieko Misaka) is delightful, though has all the depth of a game avatar, and the hero (nicely played by stuntman Tak Sakaguchi) is suitably dashing and aloof.

I’m surprised it’s not been remade with Jason Statham, or some equally nimble western action hero.

Zombies, gangsters, martial arts and the odd bit of slapstick. It won’t win any awards for subtlety, but what’s not to love?

If you like the films of Raimi, Tarantino, Romero and Woo, then give your brain five minutes to adjust to the glorious lunacy, settle back and enjoy the ride.

• Brand new 2K restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films, approved by director Ryûhei Kitamura
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray™ presentations of both versions of the film: the original 2000 cut and 2004’s Ultimate Versus, featuring over 10 minutes of new and revised footage
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon

• Original lossless Japanese 5.1 and 2.0 stereo audio and English 2.0 stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary by Kitamura and producer Keishiro Shin
• Audio commentary by Kitamura and the cast and crew
• New visual essay on the career of Kitamura by Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp
• Behind Versus, a two-part behind-the-scenes documentaries exploring the film’s production
• First Contact: Versus Evolution, a featurette exploring the film’s origins
• Tak Sakaguchi’s One-Man Journey, an archival featurette on the actor’s visit to the 2001 Japan Film Festival in Hamburg
• Film festival screening footage
• Team Versus, a brief look inside the Napalm Films office
• Deep in the Woods, an archival featurette featuring interviews with Kitamura, cast and crew
• The Encounter, an archival interview with editor Shûichi Kakesu
• Deleted scenes with audio commentary by Kitamura, cast and crew
• Nervous and Nervous 2, two “side story” mini-movies featuring characters from the main feature
• Featurette on the making of Nervous 2
• Versus FF Version, a condensed, 20-minute recut of the film
• Multiple trailers
• Image gallery

• Original lossless Japanese 6.1 and 2.0 stereo audio and English 6.1 and 2.0 stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Audio commentary by Kitamura, cast and crew
• Sakigake! Otoko versus Juku, a featurette on the newly shot material for Ultimate Versus
Versus is released on Blu-ray by Arrow, £24.99

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