Thursday, May 25, 2006

Versus (2000)

A yakamuza kickin'-in-the-head, shootin'-in-the face piece of genius

Action Comedy Zombie Fantasy (USA, Japan)

Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki

Directed By: Ryuhei Kitamura

Overview: In this world there are 666 portals to the other side. At the site of the 444th portal, in the Forest of Resurrection, Yakuza gangsters find that the bodies of the enemies that they've been burying all these years are suddenly not quite at rest.

Acting: Normally you'd think a movie with an estimated $400,000 budget (severely low end) would have actors who really don't know what they're doing. That would be true here too, however, we also have a genius of a director, who, knowing this, turns this into just enough comedy to make it work. "CSI: Miami"'s David Caruso can't hold a candle to them, but he sucks. These guys, they made a great movie, period.
Rating: 8

Cinematography: It's low-budget, no doubt, but when you tribute Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series with your ground-low zoom ins and circling overhead cameras, have lots of latex gore and the occasional fish-eye lens shot and never once complain about any technical issues, then how can you not appreciate it for what it is? El Mariachi is considered a classic and the cameraworks was really shoddy. This was visually stunning, a pleasure to watch.
Rating: 8

Script: Because you can't reason with zombies, there was not a whole lot of dialogue. When there were plot elements being explained, they did it so quickly that there wasn't time for comprehension. It didn't sink in before some other major plot piece or character was introduced, and in the end, I found myself a little lost. I will say though, that the 'rote' dialogue, things you'd expect to hear, like 'Oh my God, they're getting up' or 'Oh Jesus, we have to get out of here!', was done far more originally than I would have expected, and there were some hilarious moments between characters that more than make up for what's lacking.
Rating: 7

Plot: It's actually quite surprising how complex this film is. Most of the characters are comedically farcical, but the three mains are truly driven by their goals. With some genuine twists and turns and a sequel-inviting (and received) and original ending, the simple survival plot that zombie movies tend to be is made more important with the 'cosmic relevance' of this story. Is it me or do the Japanese love plots that mean the fate of the universe?
Rating: 7

Mood: The film opens with the shot of a man holding a sword outstretched, his enemy cleaved in twain before him. This has real gore and lots of it to entertain the kiddies. It would have been nice to have a story that was a bit more structured, a touch easier to follow, but that just makes me want to see it again... In the past I would say that low-budget gore-horror films needed a stretch of the imagination, forgiveness even, to truly enjoy it. This shattered that belief. Versus knew its fault and ran with it rather than ignoring it, giving it a unique and distinctly immersive mood that is all its own.
Rating: 9

Oh my God! Zombies that use guns and swords!!!!

Overall Rating: 78% (Technical Score Versus Genuine Love...)

Aftertaste: The good friend of mine who introduced this to me predicted I would give it a 76%. He knew the inherent faults in this, given the budget, guns and kicks in the head aside. At first glance this could be easily considered nothing more than some low-budget zombie flic, worthy of nothing more than being watched as a joke, but I'll tell you this left an indelible impression on me, and this has raised the bar on low-budget film for me permanently. Like Ricky-Oh, this is the kind of film that if you like, you will constantly have to defend, and I'm ready to champion that fight, yes sir.