Versus

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domino harvey
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Versus

#1 Post by domino harvey » Fri Sep 25, 2020 10:21 am

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A relentless one-of-a-kind sensory assault chock-full of hyper-kinetic fight scenes, gangster shootouts, sword-slashing violence and gory zombie horror, Versus was a key title amongst the barrage of innovative horror and action movies that appeared as if from nowhere from Japan at the turn of the millennium, leading to a new wave of appreciation for Asian extreme cinema.

A mysterious face-off in a wooded clearing between two escaped convicts and a carload of sharply dressed yakuza holding a beautiful woman captive ends in hails of bullets and showers of blood. The location for this violent encounter is the mythic Forest of Resurrection, the site of the 444th portal of the 666 hidden gates that link this earthly domain to the netherworld – and it didn’t get this name for nothing. As one of the surviving prisoners escapes with the girl into the darkness of the forest, disgruntled 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…

Versus caused a sensation both in Japan and internationally upon its release, launching the careers of director Ryûhei Kitamura (Godzilla Final Wars, Midnight Meat Train) and action star and fight choreographer Tak Sakaguchi (Battlefield Baseball, Yakuza Weapon). Arrow Video is proud to present this mythic cult title in both its original 2000 and expanded 2004 Ultimate Versus iterations, in a brand new, director-approved restoration.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
  • 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
DISC 1: VERSUS
  • Original lossless Japanese 5.1 and 2.0 stereo audio and English 2.0 stereo audio
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Audio commentary by Audio commentary by Kitamura, cast and crew
  • 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 documentary 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
DISC 2: ULTIMATE VERSUS
  • 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
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film and a reprinted interview with Kitamura by Tom Mes, and notes on the making of the film by Kitamura

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colinr0380
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Re: Versus

#2 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Sep 25, 2020 11:00 am

"It's a movie about fighting. So if you ask me what this movie is about, its about a huge fight. Its a movie about the biggest fight in the world."

That is a quote from Ryuhei Kitamura the opens the making of about the film. I have the US Region 1 Media Blasters release of this from the early 2000s and it is a kind of mash up of post-Matrix action film and zombie film (lots of guns and swords being swung around to thumping techno). I remember finding it interesting in parts but that it also felt very overlong at almost two hours and with a repetitive structure of introducing a small group of characters wandering through the woods (everything is set in the woods!) only for the reset button to get pushed as they get gruesomely killed off for the cycle to start all over again. A little bit like Don't Go In The Woods though a bit more competent than that!

Its over the top and rather irreverently tongue in cheek toned with a lot of action and violence and only a really slender thread of a storyline to justify it. However while I remember being a bit lukewarm on it (I think it might have worked well as a short film at around an hour), this was Kitamura's big breakout film. He went on to the much more stylish (and stylised) action dramas Alive, Aragami, Azumi and Sky High, had his biggest responsibility directing Godzilla: Final Wars, and then went international and did the 2009 adaptation of the Clive Barker short story Midnight Meat Train starring Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones(!) and the Luke Evans horror film No One Lives in 2012.

The Media Blasters DVD edition had a lot of extra features: a featurette, a making of, an interview with the Editor and "Nervous" - a side story mini-movie and two commentaries: one with Kitamura and the cast and the other with Kutamura and Producer Keishiro Shin.

EDIT: So it looks as if all of the previous extras appear on this new edition with the additions of a new piece by Jasper Sharp, Nervous 2 and its featurette and the Versus FF Version, which I am curious about since it might work best as a condensed 20 minute piece! Plus the addition of Ultimate Versus and its features, although I am a little concerned to find out that this is ten minutes longer than the original film! Presumably that is allowing for an extra fight scene to be inserted somewhere.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

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colinr0380
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Re: Versus

#3 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:46 am

And here's the trailer

I should say though that I am glad to see this get a UK release since certainly Versus (and I think most of Kitamura's other films up to Midnight Meat Train, even Godzilla: Final Wars) did not really get much of a release in this country at the time.

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tenia
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Re: Versus

#4 Post by tenia » Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:28 am

I discovered the movie when it got released in video in France, full buzz around it, and remembered feeling extremely disappointed by it. It felt like an exhaustive on-steroids very amateurish and repetitive movie, that lasts 2 hours without going anywhere, and with action scenes that never felt really thrilling or exciting because of how poorly choregraphed and cheap looking they were feeling. It felt as if the movie was extremely conscious of that and tried to cover it up by having people jumping around to create energy, but it never worked for me.

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The Curious Sofa
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Re: Versus

#5 Post by The Curious Sofa » Sat Sep 26, 2020 5:44 am

I haven't seen this but judging by the four films by Ryûhei Kitamura which I have seen, he may be the most incompetent film director currently working.

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tenia
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Re: Versus

#6 Post by tenia » Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:11 am

Midnight Meat Train wasn't bad (from what I recall). Aragami was... OK. Azumi was awful though, falling in the same shortcomings than Versus (but with obviously a bigger budget).

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The Curious Sofa
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Re: Versus

#7 Post by The Curious Sofa » Sat Sep 26, 2020 6:29 am

Midnight Meat Train was the first film of his I saw and I thought it was awful. The most hilarious part was " the NYC art world" as represented by Brooke Shields, whose character can't distinguish between art and photo journalism. Apart from that I found every directorial choice questionable, most of all the shoddy use of locations and effects. Where Clive Barker took us to a subterranean hell, this takes us to....an empty warehouse.

After a couple of more films where I went "what is this abomination ?" his name became one I actively avoid. The one exception was a recent anthology horror film which was middling, till it came to his contribution, which was predictably terrible.

Orlac
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Re: Versus

#8 Post by Orlac » Sat Sep 26, 2020 9:30 am

colinr0380 wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:46 am
And here's the trailer

I should say though that I am glad to see this get a UK release since certainly Versus (and I think most of Kitamura's other films up to Midnight Meat Train, even Godzilla: Final Wars) did not really get much of a release in this country at the time.
No "new" Japanese Godzilla films got a UK release in between 1992's Godzilla vs Mothra and 2016's Shin Godzilla.

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J Wilson
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Re: Versus

#9 Post by J Wilson » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:39 am

I remember enjoying Versus with my friends on a random Saturday night in the early 00's, but trying sit through it again later without occasional distractions and a lot of chatter was far more difficult. I saw Azumi and that was underwhelming as well. And his Godzilla film was a trashy mess, though I enjoyed some of the monster fights.

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The Elegant Dandy Fop
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Re: Versus

#10 Post by The Elegant Dandy Fop » Sat Sep 26, 2020 3:30 pm

I remember renting the DVD of this from Blockbuster back in 2003 as a teen and thought it was a real slog. I actually distinctly remember falling asleep halfway through the feature and then continuing when I woke up. I rarely pass out during any movie, but found this to be so boring and incompetently made. Kitamura also directed the infamously stupid cutscenes from the Metal Gear Solid GameCube remake, Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes, which puts the already pretty fantastical game into new realms by adding insane back flips, plenty of pointless slow motion, bullet time, and Solid Snake dodging a missile by jumping off of it. I ended up selling my disc of it for about $100 years ago and have no regrets.

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colinr0380
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Re: Versus

#11 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Sep 26, 2020 4:20 pm

They will have somebody's eye out with the way that they are twirling those things around! Anyway, dodging a missile by jumping off of it is not inherently a bad thing, it just depends on how it is handled!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Sat Oct 24, 2020 8:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Versus

#12 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Sep 27, 2020 3:52 am

Well I revisited this last night and it was not quite as bad as I remember it! It is still a film that is one long string of fight sequences (in the same way that the much later Free Fire is one long conflict) and inevitably that gets rather samey after a while. Plus everything being set entirely within those woods, albeit for plot reasons, and the rather drab look of the colour scheme of the film kind of works against it in the long run too (though now that I am more aware of locations such as the Suicide Forest, that location now feels a bit more resonant than it did). Though coming at it with low expectations helps some of the other aspects to stand out better this time around: I really liked the single yakuza character who survives most of the film and does not get turned into a zombie keeps running around in terror in the background of various scenes and every time he does something to try and help anyone else it invariably makes things worse! That is a fun and strangely endearing supporting character! I also liked some of the bits of business around that cop chasing after our escaped prisoner hero who just wants to get his severed right hand (which was just hanging from the handcuffs the first time we see our absconding prisoners) back, but by the end there are so many body parts flying around that it is difficult to tell whose is whose!

I did actually laugh at the most blatant homage to The Matrix as one of the characters does the Bullet Time move only to be blown up by an explosive bullet in the middle of that backwards lean move! And I kind of love the cyclical coda which:
SpoilerShow
takes place 99 years in the future (bookending the samurai meeting his fate in the past-set prologue) where after the hero and heroine have gone off into the sunset in the main film we see both the protagonist and antagonist back, with the villain of the film resurrected (reincarnated?) as the new hero and the hero of the film now a jaded embittered figure for having existed for so long and taunting his opponent by holding the new reincarnation of the heroine hostage.

I really liked the duality of conflict being expressed in that final scene, suggesting that it might be just be the passage of time that turns someone from a 'hero' into a 'villain' and dying is just a chance to take a nap before returning to life refreshed and back into the good guy! I don't think you could get away with that in a Hollywood action film (especially someone who has been the main identification figure, albeit an anti-hero, all the way through then roughing up the new incarnation of the heroine! Though it did make me think a bit of the characters exchanging roles and demeanours in the later Cloud Atlas!), although in the end its really just a twist 'gotcha' ending, albeit done really well.

Maybe it is just an expression of my relief in the film finally getting out of those darn woods for the last two minutes but I liked the sci-fi (i.e. parking garage standoff in the vein of Michael Jackson's Bad) stylings of that coda. Presumably the "Forest of Resurrection" has been concreted over by that future point!
But that is literally a couple of minutes long at the end of the film where it actually brings up an intriguing idea about its world rather than just focusing on flashy fight scenes and carnage as in the rest of it.

So whilst I would still caution about this film it might be worth a look if you just want fight scenes and often well pulled off gore effects. Although I would probably disagree with the "one of a kind" description in the write up for this new release. It is very indebted to The Evil Dead and Evil Dead II in all the zombie scenes (after being killed the yakuza gang come back more as demonic taunting figures than just shambling zombies and a couple of shots are explicit references to Ash flying backwards through the trees), From Dusk Till Dawn (the whole premise of a film starting out as one thing and turning into another part-way through, though in Versus the shift happens about half an hour in), Cannibal Apocalypse (the reference to that shot of the giant hole in someone's stomach which the camera can then look through, which gets pulled off pretty well in Versus), and quite a bit of Highlander came to mind (the whole 'there can be only one' winner aspect and all the decapitations, though I concede that is probably just generally what happens in a swordplay film!) as well as The Matrix. Maybe with a bit of Peter Jackson's Bad Taste in there too, though that might just be due to the 'reveling in gore effects to the point of comedy whilst the story is whisper thin' aspect to the film.

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