Versus

Hidden across the Earth are portals to another dimension which can only be sensed by rare individuals, some of whom seek to open them and obtain the power held within; one such portal is in Japan, an area known as the Forest of Resurrection, the power of the portal having permeated the earth so that any who are buried there will rise again.

The site of an ancient battle between the forces of good and evil as represented by two warriors, five hundred years later they meet again in the Forest of Resurrection, now a Yakuza killing ground, the bodies of those who have been murdered returning again and again even as the two warriors are brought together for what might be their final battle.

Premiered in 2000 at the Toronto International Fantastic Film Festival, it was not until the following year that Versus (Vāsasu, ヴァーサス) was released in Japan but despite the success it enjoyed both there and internationally director Ryuhei Kitamura was never happy with the film and so three years later he reassembled his team to shoot additional footage which, integrated along with newly generated effects sequences, was released in 2004 as Ultimate Versus.

Both versions of the film remastered from the original film elements for Arrow’s double disc Blu-ray edition, it is packed with multiple commentaries from Kitamura, cast and crew, archive featurettes, deleted scenes, “side story” mini-movies and a comprehensive catalogue of interviews and festival footage from international tours promoting the film.

Co-written by Kitamura and Yūdai Yamaguchi, Versus was originally planned as a sequel to his earlier short film Down to Hell before taking on a manic life of its own, consciously emulating and aimed at the American film market, a gun-toting martial arts blending of the immortal rivals of Highlander seeking their mystical prize with the woodland setting, exploding zombies and frantic editing of Evil Dead taking precedence over the expected reverence to the influences of Japanese cinema.

Starring Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki and Chieko Misaka, Versus is built entirely around the action sequences, endless and surprisingly inventive as weapons are exchanged and more disposable supporting characters arrive in the forest for the unceasing slaughter, a two hour (and ten minute in the Ultimate cut) showcase of skills and talent using wirework, prosthetics and pyrotechnics which amounts to little substance yet in its breathless slapstick action manages to be ridiculously entertaining.

Versus is available on Blu-ray from Arrow Films now

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