Samurai Cop

Samurai Cop rev Samurai Cop  (1991)    Cinema Epoch/Action    RT: 96 minutes    No MPAA rating (violence, some blood, language, full frontal nudity, sex, drug references)    Director: Amir Shervan    Screenplay: Amir Shervan    Music: Alan DerMarderosian    Cinematography: Peter Palian    Release date: 1991 (DTV)    Cast: Matt Hannon, Robert Z’Dar, Mark Frazer, Cranston Komuro, Jannis Farley, Gerald Okamura, Dale Cummings, Melisa Moore, Cameron, Joselito C. Rescober.    Box Office: N/A

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 Had it not been for RiffTrax, I never would have bothered with Samurai Cop, a hilariously inept action flick that hit video stores during the DTV (direct-to-video) boom of the early 90s. When RiffTrax goofs on a movie, it has to be supremely bad in a special kind of way. Perhaps I should explain. For me, there are two types of bad movies. First (and definitely least!), bad ones like I, Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Alice Through the Looking Glass and Assassin’s Creed (to name but a few). They’re just plain bad. Big budget noisefests, impersonal by-the-numbers assembly line products, created by committee (rather than written) affairs made for morons with $12 burning a hole in their pockets. Second, bad movies made great by their utter ineptitude- e.g. Plan 9 from Outer Space, Mommie Dearest, Showgirls, Can’t Stop the Music and Valley of the Dolls. As you probably already guessed, Samurai Cop belongs in the second category. It’s the better kind of bad movie. Nay, it’s the best kind.

 samurai-copThe main character’s name is Joe Marshall and I could just hear the late Don LaFontaine (the voice heard on over 5000 trailers) saying “Joe Marshall, Samurai Cop!” Once that popped into my head, I couldn’t make it leave. Marshall is played by an actor named Matt Hannon (aka Mathew Karedas) whose only notable credits are the two Samurai Cop flicks (yep, there’s a sequel!) and another DOV movie called American Revenge (1988). He has to be one of the worst actors I’ve ever seen which makes him ideal for the lead in Samurai Cop. Joe Marshall is a San Diego cop sent to help the LAPD take down a renegade Japanese gang called the Katana. What makes him qualified for such a task? Why, he’s a samurai, of course (hence the title). He’s partnered with Frank Washington (Frazer), the grooviest black dude on the force. Together, they wreak all sorts of havoc trying to stop crime boss Fujiyama (Komuro) from taking over the cocaine trade in L.A. Along the way, Marshall finds time to start a relationship with restaurant owner Jennifer (Farley) who drops Fujiyama (as a lover) the minute Marshall strolls into her place to intimidate the Katana boss and his goons including main henchman Yamashita (Z’Dar, Maniac Cop).

Before I proceed, I’d just like to say that I like Samurai Cop very much albeit for all the wrong reasons. It’s a bad movie, a VERY bad movie. That’s what I love about it. It may sound like I’m panning the movie and every aspect of it but I’m really not. I mean every word of it in an affectionate kind of way. That being said, let’s talk about this epic craptacle of a bad movie. Samurai Cop, written and directed by Amir Shervan (Hollywood Cop), hits that rare level of perfection in that every single thing about it is badly done. I’m talking acting, dialogue, fight choreography, dubbing, editing, music, cinematography, writing and directing. I’m willing to bet that the guy who swept up at the end of each day’s filming even did a bad job of it.

 Like I said, lead actor Hannon can’t act. He looks more like a California surfer dude than a samurai cop. His line readings are about as convincing as a nun giving advice on how to please your lover. Even funnier, in several close-up shots, you can tell he’s wearing a wig. He got his hair cut shot before being called back for reshoots and Shervan had to obtain a wig. As the comic sidekick, Frazer wise-cracks, low-fives and makes jokes. In one chase scene, Marshall climbs over a fence while Washington crawls under it. When asked why, he quips, “Because I’m an undercover cop.” It’s so stupid, it’s actually funny. Z’Dar, an actor of Lithuanian descent, is hilariously miscast as a Japanese bad guy. If Samurai Cop wasn’t so ludicrous, it would be offensive.

Melisa Moore (Sorority House Massacre II, Angelfist) co-stars as Peggy, a fellow cop with a big appetite for sex. She propositions a uniformed officer (“You and I got nothing to do, let’s f—k.”) before a raid on the home of one of Katana’s main guys played by real life martial artist Gerald Okamura. All of the Japanese characters in Samurai Cop are depicted as exaggerated Asian stereotypes who growl/yell every line of dialogue. It doesn’t help that the dubbing is piss-poor. So many lines are out of sync that it’s almost like watching one of those cheap kung fu movies that used to air on UHF channels on Saturday afternoons in the 80s.

 There is a plethora of bad dialogue in Samurai Cop; here are a few of my favorite lines:

Yamashita (to Fujiyama): “I will bring you his head and I will place it on your piano.”

Marshall: “I may stop by, so keep it warm.”*

And this exchange….

Frank: “Captain Roma’s gonna burn my ass.”

Marshall: “Yeah, he’s gonna burn it… charcoal black.”

Frank: “It is black!”

Marshall: “Right on!” (Cue low-five exchange)

None of the actors in Samurai Cop can actually act which explains why many of them went on to other things that didn’t involve acting. I will say that many of the women are hot, especially Farley and Cameron who plays a red-headed female henchman. There’s a fair amount of nudity and sex.

 The action scenes, while plentiful, are poorly executed. Shervan doesn’t appear to understand basic concepts like editing and continuity. There are a lot of jump cuts and mismatched shots. Things seem to move slowly during the action scenes. The fights are poorly choreographed; I’m not even sure Hannon knows martial arts. The movements are slow, deliberate and clumsy. Much of the violence is of the blood-free variety. Many times when people are shot, there’s no blood or splatter. They don’t show the beheading of a potential witness against Fujiyama. During a shoot-out, shots are fired at the heroes while they hide behind a car. I’m guessing that these bad guys have particularly bad aim because half the shots appear to miss.

 For all its incompetence, Samurai Cop is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve watched in a long time. I haven’t laughed this hard in a while. It’s much funnier (albeit unintentionally so) than many of today’s so-called comedies that only think they’re funny. I’m looking at you, Zoolander 2. It’s one of those movies you invite friends over to watch while you consume copious amounts of alcohol (or, if you’re so inclined, smoke copious amounts of weed). I got a good laugh from the early 90s fashion and hairstyles. Even the title Samurai Cop is pretty awesome when you think about it. I don’t feel I can conclude without mentioning the movie’s best performance. That would be the late Dale Cummings (1988’s Spellbinder) as Police Captain Rohmer. He’s you typical irate CO who yells and curses at Marshall and Washington to get results and get them quickly. In one scene, he goes off on Fujiyama’s attorney who has the nerve to threaten a lawsuit if the cops don’t back off his client. He’s like a live-action (and VERY profane) cartoon. It’s just one of things that make Samurai Cop a bad movie classic. The makers can now consider me a member of its cult following.

*= It means exactly what you think it means and I don’t mean coffee or dinner.

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