Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

27-one-missed-call-2003

Director: Takashi Miike

Starring: Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Anna Nagata, Renji Ishibashi, Atsushi Ida, Mariko Tsutsui

Ah, yes, the Japanese ghost story. Always so bizarre! I’ve noted how this may well be my least favorite type of horror movie (werewolves run fairly close), and yet… at least technically… I’ve already dealt with two of them just this month. However, neither should count as they were not produced by Japan. One (“Pulse”) was a remake set in America, while the other (“The Forest”) was an original story set in Japan but featuring an American protagonist. 2003’s “One Missed Call” is the real deal. As batshit crazy and existing outside of anything resembling reality as the rest of its ilk, “One Missed Call” remains my one and only exception to my prejudice against this little subgenre.

A college student named Yoko Okazaki (Anna Nagata) receives a call on her cell phone, which she notices is from her own number. It goes straight to voicemail. The weird thing is that it’s dated two days to the future. Yoko and her friend Yumi Nakamura (Kou Shibasaki) listen to the message. Instantly recognizable as Yoko’s voice, the message ends with Yoko screaming. Two nights later, Yoko is having a phone conversation with Yumi which quickly becomes familiar, as Yoko is repeating the words from the voicemail. Soon, Yoko screams as she is dragged by an unknown presence off the bridge she was standing on and dropped down onto the roof of an oncoming train. From her mouth a red candy emerges, while a severed hand calls a number. Some time later, Yoko’s boyfriend, Kenji Kawai (Atsushi Ida), meets with Yumi and tells her that he received a voicemail with the exact same ringtone. To Yumi’s horror, Kenji is pulled by that same unidentified down an elevator shaft. As he dies, Kenji spits out a red candy and calls another number.

Yumi’s friend Natsumi Konishi (Kazue Fukiishi), is the next target of the deadly voicemail. The ghost has decided to mix things up a bit this time, adding photos to the voicemail. By this time, you have to be thinking that the easiest way out is to simply get rid of her cell phone, right? Well, Natsumi tries that, but it doesn’t work, because any cell phones owned by people she comes into contact with will contain the same message.

Word of the series of mysterious deaths has spread, and a TV host is interested in sensationalizing her story with a live exorcism on his program. Wanting very much to help her friend, Yumi talks to a detective named Hiroshi Yamashita (Shinichi Tsusumi). Yamashita has a special interest in helping Yumi. His sister had died in a fire after receiving a voicemail from her own number. Oh, but let’s not forget about Natsumi! So, the exorcism completely fails. Yumi is helpless to do anything but watch as her friend’s body is unnaturally twisted before her eyes. When Natsumi breathes her final breath, Yumi is next to receive the voicemail with the creepy ringtone.

Turns out that Yamashita’s sister, who was a social worker, kept a journal. In it, she talks two children whose mother was accused of child abuse. The last anyone saw of the mother, it was at a hospital which is due to be demolished soon as the result of a fire. One of the childer, Mimiko, died of asthma one year earlier. Her sister Nanako is the only living witness, but she’s unlikely to tell anyone her story as she hasn’t spoken a word since her sister died. She does have a doll which plays the same tune as the mysterious ringtone, though.

Following the one lead they’ve got, Yumi goes to the hospital, where ghosts harass her and scare the bejesus out of her. Finally, Yamashita shows up. In a dark room, Marie’s body is found, severely decomposing. Surprise, surprise… she’s holding a cellphone. The body suddenly reanimates and knocks Yamashita out of the room. At this point, Yumi starts thinking back to her own abusive mother, and this causes her to hug the grotesque corpse in front of her, which has returned to being little more than a rotting stiff.

Back at Nanako’s orphanage, Yamashita finds a nanny cam which proves that it was Mimiko, not her mother, who harmed Nanako. On this particular day, this is what caused her mother to leave Mimiko to die from her asthma. Understanding the truth, Yamashita tries to make it to Yumi’s apartment in time to save her from Mimiko’s ghost. However, when he gets there a possessed Yumi stabs him, and he falls to the ground. Not dead, Yamashita has a vision of himself saving Mimiko from her deadly asthma attack. When he awakens, he finds himself in a hospital with Yumi standing over him. From behind, we can see she is holding a knife, indicating she is still possessed. She spits a red candy into Yamashita’s mouth, and then smiles.

I don’t know if I can adequately explain why most Japanese ghost stories don’t interest me. By comparison, explaining why I feel “One Missed Call” works where others fail is fairly simple. You take the standard ghosts in the machine plot, hand it over to one of THE great Japanese filmmakers of the modern era, and let him do his thing. The surreal direction of Takashi Miike is why “One Missed Call” is in a class by itself. Far less disturbing than “Ichi the Killer” or “Audition,” it’s still one of Miike’s best. Kou Shibasaki is a talented lead with understated range. If you don’t believe me, check her out in “Battle Royale,” where she plays a deliciously villainous role. About the only thing I might change about this movie is to make the ending slightly easier to digest. It is a bit of a headscratcher, but doesn’t do enough to take away from the overall entertainment factor. If only more movies like it were this visually engaging, I might be able to change my mind about the genre as a whole.

10. The Forest (2016)

Director: Jason Zada

Starring: Natalie Dormer, Taylor Kinney, Yukiyoski Ozawa, Eoin Macken

Just to get this out of the way, I am aware of the fact that the Aokigahara Forest is indeed a real place, and that citizens of Japan have actually gone in there to commit suicide. It’s tragic on a level that I don’t think I can even comprehend. However, I also believe that a movie is just a movie. That is why the perceived insensitivities (of which “The Forest” has been accused by some) do not factor into whether or not I ended up enjoying it. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

In America, Sara Price (Natalie Dormer) receives a call from Japan informing her as to the disappearance of her identical twin sister, Jess… a schoolteacher… into the Aokigahara Forest. The police there believe that Jess has committed suicide, as this is basically the one and only reason why anyone ever goes into that forest. Against the advice of her fiance (Eoin Macken), Sara goes to Japan to look for her sister. At first, Sara finds it hard to convince anyone to help her, until she meets Aiden (Taylor Kinney) in the bar of the hotel where she is staying.

As they talk, Sara recalls the time her parents were killed in car accident just down the road from their house. As Sara tells her story to Aiden, flashbacks tell us a completely different narrative. What actually happened is that Sara and Jess’s father killed their mother and then himself with a shotgun. Sara also says that Jess witnessed their parents’ death but that she did not. This part of her story is true. It may also account for why Jess is the moodier of the two of them, her dark-haired gothic look distinguishing her from the blonde-haired Sara. First-time viewers may not guess right away, but this is the movie’s most important scene.

Sara is so bound and determined to find her sister alive that she goes about this whole expedition into the Aokigahara Forest rather carelessly. At every turn, she ignores the warnings of those more knowledgeable about the forest, including those from Sara and Aiden’s guide, Michi (Yukiyoshi Ozawa). By the time they find Jess’s tent, it’s already getting dark. Michi suggests they leave a note and come back the next morning. Sara naturally refuses and elects to stay. Aiden decides to keep her company. Michi leaves them behind… a decision he will come to regret.

Among the warnings Sara received was the instruction to remain on the trail. To do otherwise would be a surefire path toward getting oneself lost. Of course, she strays from the path, albeit with the help of a not-so-friendly ghost who takes the form of a Japanese schoolgirl. Sara believes the “schoolgirl” may know where Jess is. The ghost warns Sara not to trust Aiden, though doesn’t say why. All it had to do was plant a seed of doubt in Sara’s already troubled mind. That’s the key: The forest preys upon the minds of those weakened by distress.

Sara begins distrusting Aiden almost immediately, spotting a picture of Jess on his phone. Sara then runs away, bcoming even more lost. The forest torments her further with voices. She tries to ignore them at first, but they seem to be growing closer. They get so close that she again runs away, falling into a cave and knocking herself unconscious. The “schoolgirl” is there to greet her when she wakes, revealing its true nature to her. Aiden appears with a rope to help Sara out of the cave, and all seems to be okay between the two. Aiden has even found an abandoned ranger station.

Just when things were looking up, Sara starts hearing a voice from the basement of the station, and someone on the other side passes her a note implying that it is Jess, and that Aiden has kidnapped her. Aiden tries but fails to convince Sara that this is not the case, and Sara kills him. Once that’s done, Sara realizes that everything (the picture of Jess on Aiden’s phone, the voice behind the basement door and the note) had all been illusions created by the forest.

Up to this point, Sara’s journey through the forest, she thought, had been all about finding Jess. What it becomes about is Sara learning to face the truth of things. It is achieved symbolically when she walks into the basement of the ranger station to find herself in her childhood home on the day of her parents’ deaths. Reliving the family tragedy through Jess’s point of view, Sara finally sees for herself the murder-suicide. Sara next faces a more cruel twist of fate. Sara is grabbed by her father’s ghost and uses a knife to cut away at his fingers to allow her to escape. Thinking that she has then found her sister and is trailing behind her as Jess runs toward the lights of the search party, Sara must face the reality that she has just cut into her own wrist and is bleeding to death. As life leaves Sara, Jess really has been located by the search party, who was there to track down her sister. It seems the forest was willing to give up its hold on one of the sisters, but not both.

Like “The Boy” (which was released a mere two weeks later), “The Forest” is another PG-13 rated horror film which drew criticism based on that fact. As I indicated above, it has also been accused of being insensitive towards Japanese culture, and to suicide victims in general. The only thing that “The Forest” should be accused of is not being particularly scary. To be quite honest, the only surprise the film offers was in that pivotal scene where we learned the fate of Sara’s parents.

Other than that, the best thing that “The Forest” has to offer is Natalie Dormer. Already familiar with her work thanks to Showtime’s “The Tudors” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” I knew before I even pressed PLAY that I would enjoy the movie based on her involvement. If you’re a fan of hers like I am, then you’ll probably have the same inclination. I question whether I would have sought the movie out otherwise. It’s fun, never boring, but the plot is for the most part shockingly easy to predict. Chalk this up as a lukewarm recommendation.

You Only Live Twice (1967)

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Starring: Sean Connery, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Tetsuro Tanba, Teru Shimada, Karin Dor, Donald Pleasence, Bernard Lee

All good things come to an end and, while the James Bond franchise is still going strong today, it became clear in 1967 that the end of an era was on the horizon. Sean Connery made that much a reality when he announced his retirement from the role that brought him fame during the filming of “You Only Live Twice.”  I can understand any actor getting tired of playing the same character over and over, especially when you’re still young and are afraid of getting typecast. Still, the uncertainty of whether or not one can duplicate their success in other projects would give most anyone pause. Yet, when you’re as burned out as Connery was, there’s really no other option, other than to continue producing sub-standard material by not putting forth the best effort. “You Only Live Twice” shows the early signs of this, and so it can be argued that Connery did in fact make the correct, if unpopular decision.

James Bond is dead… or so that’s what MI6 would have everyone believe, especially SPECTRE. In reality, Bond is being sent on a new mission to Tokyo, Japan. An American spacecraft has been intercepted by an as yet unidentified second space vehicle. While the United States pretty much automatically suspect the Soviet Union’s involvement, the British government have turned their attention to the Japanese based on the site of the anonymous vessel’s landing. Once in Tokyo, Bond meets with Japanese secret service agent Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi) who puts him into contact with a fellow MI6 agent with some useful intel. Before Bond can get much out of him, however, the agent is killed. Bond kills the assailant and poses as him to get the driver to take him back to the headquarters of Osato Chemicals. Bond then wins a fight with the driver and steals some documents. The actor portraying the driver is pro wrestler Peter Maivia. You may not know him, but you are no doubt familiar with Maivia’s grandson: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

Bond’s theft does not go unnoticed, and he requires help from Aki to survive. Aki  brings Bond to her boss, Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba). Examination of the documents point to the cargo ship Ning-Po as being somehow tied in with the missing spacecraft. Eventually, Bond meets with Osato (Teru Shimada), who unbeknownst to Bond is a SPECTRE agent. Osato hands the assignment of killing Bond to Helga Brandt (Karin Dor). Outside the building, Bond once again narrowly dodges assassins’ bullets with the aid of Aki, who is driving a getaway car. They reach Kobe where they locate the Ning-Po, which Bond boards and is met face-to-face with Brandt. He thinks he has won her over with his charm, as has worked on so many other women in the past. However, when Brandt agrees to fly Bond back to Tokyo. But Brandt then sabotages the plane and bails, leaving Bond to seemingly perish. Her plan fails when Bond manages to land the plane and escape in time before it explodes. Not that I would have wanted her to, but why didn’t she just shoot him?

Tracking the Ning-Po’s movements, Bond discovers SPECTRE’s base… hidden inside a dead volcano… when his helicopter comes under fire. At the same time, SPECTRE is capturing a Russian spacecraft, thus confirming that their plans are to push the Americans and the Soviets into war. SPECTRE’s leader, Number 1, is furious that Bond is still alive, and feeds Brandt to his man-eating piranhas. Without knowledge that his cover is already blown, Bond undergoes training as a ninja and is made up to pose as Japanese. Maybe it’s the cheap makeup, but the ‘disguise’ is laughable, making Connery more closely resemble Burt Reynolds with a bad toupee than a Japanese citizen. An assassin sent by Osato tries to poison Bond in his sleep, but mistakenly kills Aki instead. Still foolishsly continuing the ruse of being Japanese, Bond is “married” to a student of Tanaka’s named Kissy Suzuki (Mie Hama). Kissy’s only other contribution to “You Only Live Twice” is to send for Tanaka’s squad of ninjas once Bond has located the entrance to the SPECTRE base.

Up to this point, “You Only Live Twice” has been a pretty decent Bond film. Not anywhere near “From Russia With Love” and “Goldfinger,” but at least comparable with “Dr. No” and “Thunderball.” That all changes in the final twenty minutes. For reasons I’m still not exactly clear on, the Americans tempt fate by launching another spacecraft. Meanwhile, Bond has found his way inside the base, freed the imprisoned American astronauts, and is posing as an astronaut with the intent of boarding SPECTRE’s Bird One and halting Number 1’s plans. How he planned on accomplishing this is beyond me, since I question whether Bond has that kind of training. It doesn’t really matter, since Number 1 has recognized Bond and has his men bring 007 to him. It’s here that Number 1 finally reveals himself as Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Donald Pleasence). The entire series had been building up to this moment… and it just falls flat. Pleasence’s version of Blofeld has none of the menace that the character’s previous dark and mysterious appearances promised. He’s the Wizard of Oz after the curtain has been pulled back.

Blofeld launches Bird One, and the Americans and the Soviets prepare for what seems like imminent conflict. However, Bond is able to get Tanaka’s forces inside the building. The ensuing melee allows for Bond to sabotage Bird One and save the day. Blofeld then aims a gun at Bond, but shoots Osato instead as punishment for his failures. He then turns the gun back on Bond, but is stopped at the last instant. It’s not as though “You Only Live Twice” was the first Bond film in which the villains could and should have easily killed him when the chance fell their way, but it’s the most egregious violation so far. Instead, Blofeld escapes and sets the base to self-destruct. Our heroes escape just in time to watch the destruction from a safe distance.

Up until now, I’ve refrained from making any “Austin Powers” references. Through the first four films, there are certain scenes which anyone familiar with the Mike Meyers comedies will recognize. However, without “You Only Live Twice,” there would be no Austin Powers. From the secret volcano lair to the elaborate battle scenes between two large armies… and the fact that Pleasence’s Blofeld is the direct model for Dr. Evil… There is much about the first two “Austin Powers” features in particular that owe everything to the fifth James Bond adventure. Its inspirational qualities in that regard do help to make the movie more enjoyable, but it’s obvious that something had to change after “You Only Live Twice.” Only time would tell if the series would enjoy a second life.

1941 (1979)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, John Belushi, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Toshiro Mifune, Warren Oates, Robert Stack, Treat Williams, Nancy Allen, John Candy, Elisha Cook Jr., Bobby Di Ciccio, Dianne Kay, Slim Pickens, Joe Flaherty

Somehow I doubt that anyone in the late 2030’s will be brazen enough to write up a satirical comedy set in the weeks following 9/11. In fact, no amount of time would be good enough not to count as “too soon” for something like that. We do have this comedy set just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and there were those in 1979 who found it distasteful, disrespectful, and otherwise just plain wrong. Some who weren’t offended simply didn’t find it very funny. As a result, “1941” was neither a critical success nor as much of a financial winner as it was hoped to be. Yet the talent both in front of and behind the camera combine to make it the cult classic that it deserves to be.

Beginning on the morning of Sunday, December 13, 1941 (i.e. six days after Pearl Harbor), “1941” opens with a hauntingly familiar piece of John Williams music. Sure enough, there’s actress Susan Backlinie, spoofing her role as the girl who gets eaten by the shark at the beginning of “Jaws.” This time, she is lifted out of the water by an emerging Japanese submarine, which is commanded by Akiro Mitamura (Toshiro Mifune). The Japanese think they’ve arrived off the coast of Hollywood, their assigned target. Close, but no cigar. With an equally inept Nazi (Christopher Lee) along for the ride, they eventually capture a man by the name of Hollis Wood (Slim Pickens), but find him most uncooperative.

The storyline within “1941” which connects most of the others together is the love story between lowly dishwasher Wally Stephens (Bobby DiCiccio) and reluctant USO girl Betty Douglas (Dianne Kay). Wally gets into it with an Army Corporal nicknamed “Stretch” (Treat Williams), who also has designs on Betty. Wally has also done nothing to impress Betty’s father Ward (Ned Beatty), who is in some hot water of his own with his wife Joan (Lorraine Gary). She’s pretty pissed that Ward has allowed the Army to position a tank on their front lawn. Joan doesn’t like the idea of her house being on the front line of a potential Japanese offensive. It should come as no surprise that the house will not survive the entire film.

Another pair that I enjoy “1941” for are Tim Matheson and Nancy Allen. Matheson plays Captain Loomis Birkhead, a role similar to his “Animal House” character in that he’s hopelessly obsessed with getting laid and can only come up with the most harebrained schemes imaginable to get who and what he wants. His current object of desire is Donna Stratten (Nancy Allen), secretary to Major General Stillwell (Robert Stack). Birkhead knows all about how Donna becomes sexually stimulated by airplanes, and makes it his mission to get her into one. The only factor he hadn’t considered is that she needs for the plane to be in flight, meaning that he’ll have to fake his way through piloting one.

The wild card comes in the form of Wild Bill Kelso (John Belushi). The first time I ever saw “1941,” I did so because of Belushi, having enjoyed him immensely from “National Lampoon’s Animal House.” If there were as many as I expect that there were who did the same, I have to wonder if they were disappointed to find that “1941,” while highly satirical, isn’t half as loony tunes as “Animal House.” That should not be a mark against it, however, and Belushi does a great job as always. The guy could make you laugh just by raising an eyebrow. As Wild Bill Kelso, he’s the one who comes charging in all gung ho, leaving a path of destruction everywhere he goes. If not for his antics and keen observation, it’s entirely possible that the Japanese might succeed in their mission in spite of themselves.

There are two scenes in “1941,” co-written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, which always seem to stand out. One takes place inside a movie theater, where tough guy General Stillwell won’t allow anything that’s going on outside to interrupt his enjoyment of “Dumbo,” during which he is openly weeping and singing along with the songs. I’d never seen Robert Stack in a situation like this before, and it has always stuck with me. The most elaborate and impressively choreographed scene in “1941” has got to be the USO dance hall, which descends into all-out chaos by the end of it, with everyone fighting everyone else and Wally, Betty, and Corporal Asshole in the center of it all.

I can understand why some might not find “1941” all that funny. National tragedies like Pearl Harbor are always going to be a touchy subject. At the time, some of the more patriotic members of the Hollywood community such as John Wayne and Charlton Heston urged Spielberg not to make the movie. It would have been yet another tragedy had Spielberg listened to them, because “1941” is a satisfying film in many respects. Perhaps not an all-time classic but in the grand tradition of epic comedies like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” it’s a terrific example of a spot-the-stars movie. By the time it’s over, you’ll want to volunteer for repeat viewing.

 

Versus (2000)

Director: Ryuhei Kitamura

Starring: Tak Sakaguchi, Hideo Sakaki, Chieko Misaka, Kenji Matsuda

Some movies are so completely insane that you can’t help but love them. Ryuhei Kitamura’s “Versus,” influenced by such American pictures as “Highlander” and “Evil Dead,” is this kind of movie. Ryuhei Kitamura, who had originally intended to make a sequel to his short film “Down to Hell,” tweaked his idea into a genre-defying tale so bizzare that it leaves its entire cast of characters nameless, instead affixing mere descriptions. The resulting two-hour extravaganza of silliness amuses far more than it confuses.

At the film’s beginning, we are let in on a little-known secret: There are 666 portals on Earth (you can see where this is going) which… sure enough… are gateways to the other side. A secluded forest in Japan, also referred to as “The Forest of Resurrection,” is home to the 444th portal. Our first bit of action takes place in the 10th century, where we see a samurai fighting against a large group of zombie-like samurai. Successful in his conflict with the zombies, the samurai is then quickly dispatched by a mysterious figure. The samurai had backup, but his partner arrives too late to help him. Now in the present day, two escaped convicts enter the Forest of Resurrection. One of them, Prisoner KSC2-303 (Tak Sakaguchi), looks very much like the second samurai who was late to the battle 1,000 years ago. Almost immediately, the two convicts are confronted by a Yakuza gang who have taken a girl (Chieko Misaka) hostage. Glances exchanged between the Girl and Prisoner KSC2-303 would seem to indicate that at least one of them recognizes the other somehow, even if they don’t yet know why. Prisoner KSC2-303 kills one of the Yakuza after which, to everyone’s surprise and alarm, the corpse stands back up as if still alive. Everyone shoots it several times until it finally drops dead.

Confused by this latest turn of events, the main Yakuza member (Kenji Matsuda) shoots and kills Prisoner KSC2-303’s nervous partner in crime, hoping to test a theory. As suspected, the corpse stands up just as the dead Yakuza member had, and is taken out just as swiftly. In the confusion, Prisoner KSC2-303 and the Girl escape. Although one of the Yakuza catches up to them and engages in hand-to-hand with Prisoner KSC2-303, they abandon this fight when the other Yakuzas are left to deal with the recently re-animated corpses of all the people they’ve killed and buried over time in the Forest. Eventually, the number of zombies grows so large that the Yakuza call for a trio of assassins as their backup. It’s about this time that the leader of the Yakuza, referenced only as the Man (Hideo Sakaki), shows up. Just as Prisoner KSC2-303 resembles the 10th century samurai who couldn’t save his partner, the Man resembles the mysterious figure who killed him. The Man is upset with his men for losing their hostages. He kills them and two of the assassins and turns them all into his undead minions.

Doing the job the Yakuzas were supposed to do, the Man tracks down the hostages. When he does, he tells an inquisitive KSC2-303 that the three of them (The Man, The Girl, KSC2-303) are all reincarnated souls. The Man is trying to complete a centuries-long quest whereby he intends to open the portal and gain power in the process. To do this, the Man believes he needs to sacrifice the Girl, KSC2-303 tries to stand in his way and is killed. The Girl uses her blood to restore KSC2-303 to life and giving him a second chance against the Man, but not before the experience gives him a vision of the past. His 10th century self killed the Girl rather than allow the Man to use her to obtain the power he desires to this day. He avoids having to make this sacrifice by virtue of her having used her powers of resurrection on him. It’s now KSC2-303 whose blood the Man needs, but KSC2-303 is able to defeat his enemy this time. An epilogue, set 99 years in the future, shows the two enemies, newly resurrected, once again squaring off. The setting is one of post-apocalypse, shockingly brought about not by the Man, but by KSC2-303.

As I’ve indicated, the plot of this movie is beyond silly, but never in the many times that I’ve watched “Versus” have I ever been bothered by that. I don’t even care about the fact that we never learn anyone’s real name. I like the comical, over-the-top approach to the violence, and the equally over-the-top performances from some of the supporting cast. Favorites include Kenji Matsuda, who looks like an Asian Benicio Del Toro and displays manic behavior on par with Nicolas Cage at his most unhinged, Minoru Matsumoto as the accident-prone Yakuza member, and Yukihito Tanikado as one of the two cops giving chase to KSC2-303 from the prison to the forest. Tanikado’s cop character is fond of exaggerating everything about himself, most notably bragging about being “500 times stronger than Mike Tyson!”

In my review of “Midnight Meat Train,” also directed by Ryuhei Kitamura, I indicated that the antidote to that experience was this movie, and that is a fact. It’s also a great movie to watch with a group of friends. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend a dubbed version of a film over the original language w/ subtitles, but “Versus” is the exception. The experience is mostly the same either way, but the English dubbing makes the funny moments that much funnier. If you’ve never heard of “Versus” before now (I hadn’t before my first viewing) and you like kitchen sink-type action comedies, seek this one out immediately.