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Versus

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
2000
Studio: 
N/A
Genre: 
Zombedy
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
0 NTSC
Aspect Ratio: 
1.78:1
Directed by: 
Ryuhei Kitamura
Cast: 
Tak Sakaguchi
Yuichiro Arai
Movie: 
5
Extras: 
3
Bottom Line: 
4

 There are 666 portals that connect this world to the other side. These are concealed from all human beings. Somewhere in Japan exists the 444th portal....
 
And thus, Versus begins. Although maybe they should have changed the opening verse to:
 
Hold onto your hats, because For the next 128 minutes....well...you'll be fucking amazed.
 
Versus is a jaw-droppingly brilliant zombie-yakuza-samurai-martial arts-comedy-drama that throws so much action at you that it's almost exhausting to watch. From the opening credits until the last frame, the film is relentlessly entertaining, combing some of the best fight choreography in recent memory with elements of fantasy and horror and a whole lot of humor.
 
Prisoner KSC2-303 (Sakaguchi) and an accomplice escape from their captors and flee into a nearby forest where they are to meet their "pick-up". When they arrive at their destination, they are greeted, instead, by their boss's henchmen, who tell them they must wait for the boss's arrival before they can leave. KSC2-303 doesn't buy this, and he's fairly certain that he's going to die here. When the group brings forth a young woman they've kidnapped, the prisoner instinctively saves her from the group, but not before a few bodies hit the ground in a sea of gore. Unfortunately for all involved, the bodies don't stay down for long, and the reanimated corpes of dozens of buried mobsters come crawling out of the ground and stalk our hero and the villains through the forest. These zombies can shoot, fight, and work together, but they are not the biggest challenge our hero has to face. When a stranger (Ichi the Killer's Yuichiro Arai) carrying a breifcase enters the fray, he converts the remaining Yakuza into an undead ass-kicking squad to pursue KSC2-303 and the strange girl. Soon we find out that the Stranger and KSC2-303 share a history that goes back hundreds of years, although the prisoner has no recollection of it. What is it this stranger wants, and how does the prisoner fit into his plans? When the mystery is revealed, the balance between Earth and the Other Side become the prize in the fight to end all fights.
 
Director Kitamura filmed Versus on a shoestring budget, and depended on his ability to work a camera to create what can only be described as a hybrid of The Evil Dead and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon as visualized by John Woo. The film features several homages to both films, especially Raimi's cult classic, but is original enough to merit it's own place in the upper echelons of horror/action cinema. Kitamura's command of the camera shows a burgeoning brilliance, and one can only imagine what's yet to come from this very potent talent. If Versus is any indication, we will see great things.
 
The Region 0 DVD features 8 minutes of extra footage that was excised from the Regions 2 and 3 editions, including extra gore and lengthening of the already lengthy fight scenes. I'd originally watched the film on a French import Region 2 DVD and, while this extended edition is great, it's not only the extra footage that makes this disc superior to it's Region 2 counterpart. The Region 0 disc features the best transfer of the two, cleaner, more intelligable subtitles, and a fantastic 5.1 DTS sound mix. Both Regions feature a widescreen presentation, but only the Region 0 edition is anamorphic, and, as if all of these factors weren't enough, the Region 0 disc comes with a subtitled feature length commentary, a short shot-on-video film called Nervous (sadly, not subtitled) and a short behind the scenes documentary (also not subtitled, although there is very little dialogue). Rounding out the package, we get three trailers and one Japanese television spot for the film, as well as the usual chapter stops, animated menus and subtitle options.
 
Now, after all of this, factor in the fact that I paid over $30 dollars for my Region 2 import and only $8.99 for this Region 0 edition, and you see why I'm so impressed. Now, here's the big surprise.....
 
This is a bootleg.
 
Yep. This is not an official release from any company. It's a DVD-R release (which means that your DVD player has to support DVD-R, but the good news is virtually all but the cheapest units do so). While the licensed release has an inferior picture, bad subtitles, and no extras, this incredibly polished black market package looks as professional as any major studio release, has a flawless anamorphic transfer, better subs, sound, and features a commentary previously available only on the region 3 Japanese release. Why is a black market edition so much better than the official version? Who knows! Bottom Line is these guys put together a DVD that is worthy of the film. Period.
 
While some of you may feel a hint of remorse buying something that isn't sanctioned by a film's respective studio, bear in mind, in Japan, the black market DVD is commonplace. While it isn't exactly encouraged, the practice is virtually ignored, and, for many people, these versions are the only way they'll ever see certain films until a company in their particular region decides to release them. In many cases, these films are bought up by sub-standard distributors who pay literally pennies for the rights to manufacture a movie and then turn around and sell the public an inferior, extras free disc for an exhorbitant mark-up. Personally I'd rather give my money to the filmmaker himself, but since that's not really an option, this DVD is the way to go for folks in Region 1. Bear in mind, I'm not saying I support the black market, I'm just saying that my hard earned dollar wants the best product out there, and in this case, as of this writing, the best product out there has been lovingly crafted by some shady dude in an apartment in Tokyo.
 
Do with that information what you will ;)
 

3
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