Saturday, February 25, 2012


Japanese, Samurai, Zombie, Gangster Movie!

Those words are the only ones that I need to sell Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus.

This ultra low-budget Japanese gem is a bizarre concoction combining an ancient battle between good and evil, zombie reanimation, modern-day Yakuza and sword battles in the woods.

This is, in traditional sense, a terrible film. The star, Tak Sakaguchi, appears to have learned his acting craft from cardboard stand-ups of far better actors. The budget dictates that the entire film be set in the woods. The female lead is relatively unattractive (a fact commented on hysterically by the film's director in the DVD bonus features). The director acknowledges that they tried to hire a prettier actress, but could not afford it :(

What appears to be a recipe for disaster is actually a film rendered more charming by it's limitations. Underlying these problems are real pleasure. There are literal scenery-chewing performances by the other leads, Hideo Sakaki and Kenji Matsuda. The actions scenes are actually well choreographed and the final fight would be impressive even in a far-more expensive film. Finally, the real selling point of this movie is that no-one takes it all that seriously. The cast and crew are clearly having fun pushing the ridiculous subject-matter and focusing on style over substance. The visuals are a real treat for fans who enjoy Underworld-style kitschy action, zombie attacks, and wild melodrama.

So grab a beer, some friends, and a pizza. Then watch this movie. If you find humor in the absurd, it will be time well spent.

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