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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 10.27.11] movie review trailer news horror action



Year: 2011
Directors: Jason Trost
Writers: Jason Trost
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Rick McGrath
Rating: 6 out of 10

Sadly, the only real competition in VS is between your impulse to laugh because it’s so corny, or your impulse to laugh because it’s so silly.

The third and last of three World Premieres at the 2011 Toronto After Dark film fest, VS attempts to thrill you by placing four superheroes in a series of no-win people die challenges, each worse than the prior, in a sort of macabre survival game which pits each superheroes’ love for their teammates against their irrepressible desire to save people in distress. Gosh, what a pickle! But the potential thrills, if any, soon evaporate because of too many flaws: the bad guys are barely super-evil, the challenges themselves are neither clever evil nor suspenseful evil, and the superheroes aren’t super.

The plot is relatively ingenious: four superheroes – Cutthroat, Charge, Shadow and The Wall – are abducted by the evil Rickshaw (yeah, Rickshaw, sigh… why not Rick O’Shay?), are somehow drained of their unidentified superpowers, and are forced into a number of Saw-like situations in order to save an abandoned town full of tied-up innocents who happen to be sitting on kegs of dynamite. Sounds good, but things quickly fall apart in the execution, as our heroes turn out to be more than human without their powers, and by more than human I mean pretty damn stupid.

Ok, maybe confused is a better term, as our heroes and the impatient audience are forced to run around to different locales simply to get the gist of the plot and some feeble “armaments” – chain, stick, iron rod -- all of which are useless in their first “battle”, which is also the movie’s first disappointment. None of them seem remotely competent, with the possible exception of Charge, who does finally take charge of the situation with his plan – “play along with Rickshaw” – and who does make the sacrifice that leads to victory, even if it’s hardly a clever ruse. Why is he so smart? Because as we ultimately discover, he’s actually not physically altered like the other three superheroes, but is in actuality a normal human who has been faking it all along. Huh? Well, at least he has no powers to lose.

The other three costumed crusaders are hopeless. Cutthroat, the sidekick, fluctuates between remorse over his lifesaving failures and nursing his anger over never being the leader; Shadow, the girl, is emotionally hooked to the other three; and The Wall is about as thick as a brick. As usual, when the heroes wear goodie two-shoes, the most interesting character is Rickshaw, the movie’s master of evil ceremonies and the only character to have any decent lines, unless, of course, you get a charge out of a group of confused do-gooders fumbling through a series of can’t win contests. Do they save anyone? They barely save some of themselves.

One of the attempts at adding suspense to VS is Rickshaw’s insistence that each challenge take place in a different locale in the town… junk yard, lumber yard, bar, hardware store – we hit all the high points – and our heroes invariably only have five minutes to get from place to place or Rickshaw will blow the entire berg and everyone in it. I dunno why I find this frustrating, but every time they’re presented with such a tight deadline they stand around and commiserate about what just happened – invariably, a bunch of people have just been blown up – and then one of them continues to hang around after the others have left. Considering they don’t even know where the next place is, are they unconsciously asking to have everything blown up? Nah, they’ve seen the script.

VS is the brain superchild of auteur Jason Trost, who wrote, directed, co-produced and stars as Charge. He’s quite good as a clean-cut, supermoral squad leader who’s secretly a human, but he’s not so good as a director – the film’s pacing is non-existent – nor as a writer, given the boring episodic structure, yadda yadda script and improbable ending. I will give him credit for killing guys off, though… including some of the good guys (gasp).

The man who has the most fun is James Remar, who chews up all the scenery as the maniacally laughing Rickshaw, and who seeks revenge on the funny foursome for all the times they’ve ruined his evil plots. All good buddies here, eh? But it’s also sorta sad that Rickshaw, of all the characters, is also the most appealing. By the end I was hoping he might win after all – but they always hire idiot henchmen. Lucas Till plays the psychotic sideman Cutthroat, decked out in a cute Elton John style mask and a really cheap cape over tights. Fetching. He divides his time between bouts of empathic angst over the dead “innocents”, and ennuis of jealousy over the man in charge, Charge. Really, what’s with superheroes and their obsessive need to be father figures? Sophie Merkley is the enigmatic Shadow, eye candy for the boys in her little spacegirl outfit, and basically useless in fights. Last and least is Lee Valmassy as The Wall, with his weird mask, weirder moustache, and incredible lack of knowledge about what it means to be human. And just what kind of superpower would a wall have, anyway?

Visually, the movie divides itself among straight shots, security camera shots and ethereal flashbacks of the four friends deciding to become superheroes and their interpersonal relationships. The soundtrack is fine, and the editing flows along as well as can be expected, given the glacial pace of the action. The violence is minimal, consisting mostly of stuff being blown up real good, and the usual bloody knife wounds. With no superpowers, it’s just people against people, remember.

Get the picture? Don’t. VS. You pronounce it Versus, but it could also mean Very Silly.

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(6 years ago) Reply

"unidentified superpowers"

Shadow could turn invisible, Cutthroat had superspeed, and The Wall was invulnerable – hence his ignorance of what pain felt like. All of this was stated outright in dialogue.

I'm not going to defend the film though, because there were a whole lot of problems with it.

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(6 years ago) Reply

hah -- ya got me... I missed that bit of info... doesn't change either the movie or my opinion of it, tho...

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(6 years ago) Reply

This film was absolutely horrible. It was, honestly, the second worst film I have ever seen. I felt so bad for Remar being stuck in this. I also resent the description of Trost as an auteur, as an auteur has to have some talent or ability or at least something other than being a douchebag (the funniest thing was how, during the QnA, he kept saying I don't want to sound like a douchebag and then saying something douchey). Anyways, rant over! 1/10

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(6 years ago) Reply

THANKS FOR DROPPING A MASSIVE PLOT POINT WITH NO SPOILER WARNING YOU MORON

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(6 years ago) Reply

yeah the reviewer gives away a massive plot point in the third paragraph, so if you want to watch the movie don't read this review, whether or not the movie is bad doesn't justify ruining it for people who have yet to see it


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