I’m Still Waiting on Ninja P.I.
As I watched Samurai Cop, a question kept springing to mind: can a samurai be a cop? Now I am not the world’s greatest authority on Japanese culture and history, but based on what I’ve learned through limited reading and popular culture, loosely defined a samurai was a soldier who protected nobility. Strictly by this definition a samurai cop could feasibly exist, but in the movie I am focusing on this week there is not a samurai in sight. You could also make an argument that cops aren’t very well represented in Samurai Cop either, but I’ll leave the audience at large to determine that.
So what is Samurai Cop? If a diagnosed psychopath wrote a movie immediately after watching Lethal Weapon and The Running Man, and then that same psychopath filmed the movie with no rewrites and no budget, Samurai Cop is probably the movie he would make. In reality, the movie was written and directed by Amir Shervan (who was Iranian, which also explains a lot of the dialogue issues) and was intended as a low-budget cash grab Lethal Weapon rip-off. Much like Miami Connection (you can read my review here) however, Samurai Cop never got much of an official release. It has only been in the last decade or so, thanks to the internet film community, that people have really started paying attention to the movie.
Samurai Cop’s plot seems to be that Joe (Matt Hannon) has been brought in from San Diego to take out a coke dealing samurai. This is made (un)clear in the first “action” sequence that primarily consists of helicopter stock footage and Joe’s partner Frank (Mark Frazer) telling Joe to shoot virtually everyone in sight. Although drugs are put at the forefront in the beginning, the movie ends up being about a samurai battle between Joe and Yamashita (MST3K favorite Robert Z’Dar), both of whom are white dudes. It is also pointed out early on that Joe speaks fluent Japanese and he then proceeds to never speak a word of Japanese throughout the entire movie.
Let me get something out of the way as if you couldn’t already tell; Samurai Cop is a really bad movie. It is ineptly made, badly written, and barely acted. Like a lot of bad movies (Miami Connection springs to mind) I think a lot of the film’s problems spring from the language barrier of the writer/director and everyone else. Couple this with a low budget, questionable motives (the aforementioned cash grab), and uninspired actors and it leads to comedy gold.
The funniest parts of Samurai Cop come from the lack of understanding of why the movies it is ripping off were successful. Joe is meant to be a quipping loose cannon who is also a ladies man, kind of like a mix of Riggs from Lethal Weapon and any of Schwarzenegger’s characters. He instead, due mostly to the writing of the character, comes off as a sociopath who may or may not have an incredibly small penis (if the really friendly/schizophrenic nurse is to be believed). Alternately, Frank is supposed to be (I guess) like Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon, meaning a little worn-out but understanding of Joe and his methods. Instead, Frank just looks incredibly stoned throughout the movie and kind of bumbles along as Joe’s sidekick.
Another reason action movies in the 1980’s were successful? Sex! As you will find out if you watch it, in Samurai Cop sex means naked people just kind of awkwardly rubbing on each other while the camera man tries to find the most unflattering shots of everyone involved. There are three sex scenes in this movie; all of them last for over a minute and there is nothing attractive about any of them. It is no fault of the actors (okay, so maybe the mankini Joe is wearing at one point is), but the sex scenes are so laughably bad that it’s hard to believe that even a teenage boy would find them entertaining in any way. If chemistry exists between the actors in Samurai Cop, it’s all bad.
The most glaring deficiency in Samurai Cop however, are the action sequences. You would think in a movie that hinges on the terms samurai and cop that the producers would have at the very least got a good fight choreographer and stunt person. Well you my friend would be completely wrong! From the first “action” sequence (a helicopter/car chase scene), to the anti-climactic samurai showdown, the film has a palpable sense of non-suspense. At no time did I ever care about the characters nor did I ever feel like they were in any true danger. It takes a special kind of movie to do that, and Samurai Cop does it in spades.
Those dialogue issues I mentioned earlier? Well they are the true gem in this one. If you’ve ever wanted to hear someone say “sons of a bitches” with a straight face then this is the movie for you! If you’re unsure at this point if Samurai Cop is worth your time then I implore you to look up some clips on YouTube and listen to just a few pieces of dialogue. If you’re not immediately sold by them then you might not like to laugh. Nothing I can do about that.
Although Samurai Cop is not a good movie, it is infinitely more watchable than most crap that comes out. In its failures it becomes a success. A sequel is currently being made, but much like the Machete movies and Grindhouse, my guess would be that it will be *wink, wink* bad (although I hope it surprises me). The kind of bad that Samurai Cop achieves is hard to do; it takes the perfect confluence of things to arrive at the right mixture to be so bad it’s good. Samurai Cop has that mixture and then some.
Until next time…