Tonight at the Toronto After Dark film festival I saw the dark superhero thriller VS. The film has a very simple (a word that is repeated many times in the film) plot – four superheroes are captured by their old arch nemesis, stripped of their powers, and left in a town, where they have to do deadly challenges to save the lives of captured civilians.
If there is one thing that really stood out for me in this film, it was the performance of James Remar (Dexter) as the villain Rickshaw. Remar steals every scene he is in and he seems to be having a great time playing an over the top villain.
As for the film itself, it was obviously done on a very low budget. The costumes of the heroes are not too flashy (and in fact look quite homemade) and many of the scenes take place in single rooms filmed on location. Despite the low budget, I thought the film had a decent enough story that examines what truly makes a hero. It’s probably a story that’s been done countless times before, but it still works. I also think that low budget helped give a gritty realism to the film. A similar-themed film to this one would be Kick-Ass, however that film still looked like a stylized comic book. I think that VS is probably a truer representation of superheroes in the real world.
Of course, the film isn’t without its flaws. There are a number of black and white flashbacks throughout the film that try to give some background to the four heroes and their relationship with each other. However, I don’t think that they really give any information that isn’t mentioned at some other point and those flashbacks only seem there to provide filler for a film that has a brisk 80min length. There is also absolutely no background given about the heroes’ history with Rickshaw, but that’s a little more excusable.
Another criticism I have is that while this is supposed to be a gritty and serious film, some of the lines were met with laughter by the audience. While comedy is always a good way to break tension in films, I believe that some of those laughs were unintentional.
Overall, I would say that while VS is not a perfect film, it is still pretty decent for a low-budget superhero thriller.
The film was preceded by a short film called How to Rid a Lover of a Negative Emotion Caused by You. It was a very comedic, and somewhat macabre short, about how disagreements can seemingly be resolved by cutting someone up and removing what looks to be tapioca and blue Jello. It was odd, but enjoyable.