Review: ‘Versus’

A hyperkinetic, exuberantly gory cross between "Day of the Dead" and "The Blair Witch Project," "Versus" reps Nippon low-budget genre filmmaking at its most imaginatively exaggerated. Pic, which has "cult" written all over it, will be in demand for midnight shows and will have a long ancillary life with gorehounds around the globe.

A hyperkinetic, exuberantly gory cross between “Day of the Dead” and “The Blair Witch Project,” “Versus” reps Nippon low-budget genre filmmaking at its most imaginatively exaggerated. Pic, which has “cult” written all over it, will be in demand for midnight shows and will have a long ancillary life with gorehounds around the globe.

One of two convicts who have escaped into thickly wooded hills, an ultra-cool warrior known only as Prisoner KSC2-303 (Tak Sakaguchi) must do battle with an indestructible gang of toughs, handgun-toting corpses (who never run out of bullets), his angry captors and the very personification of evil himself (Hideo Sakaki). Turns out this is the Forest of Resurrection, and KSC2-303 has been fighting variations of this battle with chief baddie through the centuries with magical blood of a woman (Chieko Misaka) as the prize. Sakaguchi has most of the best lines (boasting at one point of “500 times faster reflexes than Mike Tyson”), but Kenji Matsuda steals the show as a particularly histrionic thug. Tech credits are prodigiously inventive, with no stone left unturned in the pursuit of gratuitous violence via intricate, mobile camerawork.

Versus

Japan

Production

A Wevco Produce/Napalm Films production. (International sales: Fusion Intl., Studio City.) Produced by Keisho Shin. Executive producer, Hideo Nishimura. Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. Screenplay, Kitamura, Yudai Yamaguchi.

Crew

Camera (color), Takumi Furuya; editor, Shuichi Kakesu; music, Nobuhiko Morino; sound (Dolby Digital), Kenji Shibasaki. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Midnight Madness), Sept. 7, 2001. Running time: 119 MIN.

With

Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda.
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