Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Review: Samurai Cop (1991)

by ScottDS

In 2012, I invited you all to The Room. In 2014, we made the Miami Connection. And now, in 2015, I will introduce you to the Samurai Cop. Directed by Iranian expat Amir Shervan, this is one of the most inept films ever made... and it’s a riot! Ever since the Red Letter Media (Mr. Plinkett) guys mentioned it, I’ve wanted to see it. And now I have. Fasten your seatbelts.

Watch this (kinda NSFW) trailer. I’ll be right here.

Pretty crazy, huh? The, uh, plot involves… oh, f--- it. What plot? There’s a Japanese gang, known as the Katana Gang. They’re expanding their turf and our hero cop – the titular Samurai Cop aka Joe Marshall – is brought in from San Diego to kick some ass. The end. Seriously, that’s it. The gang is led by Fujiyama. He has some henchman. Marshall has a wise-cracking black partner, Washington. They have a grouchy captain. Marshall hooks up with a hot lady cop as well as the villain’s hot lady friend. Plenty of guns are fired, though with one or two brief exceptions, I’m not sure there’s any actual Samurai on display. If there is, it’s not from Marshall, who we’re told is a master yet he looks like some surfer dude. Seriously, this is one of the great “so bad, it’s good” movies and I highly recommend watching it with some friends. Smoke ’em if you got ’em!
To the best of my knowledge, Amir Shervan was kind of a big deal in his native land and when he made it to our shores after the Revolution, he directed one schlockfest after another. It’s interesting to watch this movie: it really is a foreigner’s idea of what a “typical” American action film (circa the late 80s, early 90s) should be like. You have the cop, the partner, the love interest, the superior, the villain, and the henchmen. What else do you need? Oh yeah, how about an actual grasp of American culture? Or at the very minimum, a grasp of the English language? The dialogue (such as it is) is so ridiculous and stilted at times, you’d think the film was made by aliens. I kid you not – at one point, Marshall addresses the villains as “You son of a bitches!” The actor tried to fix it but Shervan (who also wrote the film) wouldn’t have any of it.

Matt Hannon plays Marshall. He looks the part but he’s not a great actor. The only remotely recognizable face in the film (emphasis on “face”) is Robert Z’Dar, who plays a henchman named Yamashita, despite being very much American. Z’Dar suffers from cherubism, which is why he looks the way he does. From watching the film, it’s clear the B-movie favorite is having a blast. His is an imposing presence and he takes the material completely seriously. Another henchman is played by Gerald Okamura, an actual martial artist who’s appeared in several films and TV shows. I can’t say I’m familiar with the rest of the cast: Fujiyama is played by Cranston Komuro and Mark Frazer plays Washington. He and Hannon have good chemistry, though you get the impression that the two guys made up all their schtick on the spot. The hot lady cop is played by scream queen Melissa Moore. Uh, she does good work. [smile]
If you watched the trailer linked above, you may have noticed that the color timing is inconsistent. That’s not just the trailer – the tint often changes in the same scene, from one shot to the next. Hot to cold to hot again. The editing is horrible: there’s a noticeable lack of establishing shots, some shots are cut off too early while others linger for several seconds, and the dubbing... oh God, the dubbing. Not only are there frequent sync problems, but Shervan himself dubbed several of the actors. It’s quite obvious, especially when the lines are delivered back to back. Were the actors so busy that they were unable to come back and loop their lines? Or did Shervan finally realize he needed a modicum of story so he decided to dub in lines he felt were necessary for exposition?
I haven’t even talked about the wig yet! So the film wrapped and several months go by. In the interim, Hannon cut his hair, only for Shervan to ask him to come back for re-shoots. Horrified with Hannon’s new haircut, Shervan made him wear a wig. Fair enough. Well, the reshoots must have taken a long time because Hannon spends half the movie wearing this ridiculous mop! It changes from shot to shot and even slips off in one fight scene. It’s un-effing-believable! Let’s see… what else. Oh yeah, the locations. The locations look like the filmmakers just happened to stumble across them. Multiple inserts were filmed in Shervan’s office and one backyard fight scene looks like it was shot in three different places! Poor Mark Frazer (Washington) has several scenes where he isn’t acting with anyone – the director simply told him, “Make a happy face. Now a sad face.” The film cuts from a two-shot of Hannon and another actor to Frazer and it’s obvious his close-ups were filmed out of context. There’s a scene in the police captain’s office where both Hannon and Frazer were filmed separately for their close-ups and it shows. To be fair, this is often SOP when it comes to filmmaking but, you know, most filmmakers try to make the shots match!
The film came and went. There was no premiere, no theatrical release, and the home video rights were snatched up by some company in Europe. So we must ask: who grieves for Samurai Cop? The good news is the film has since been re-discovered (or, rather, discovered by the first time). I don’t know where the existing print came from but for the last several years, it’s been playing the midnight circuit to sold out crowds. Not only that, it was recently released on Blu-Ray with extras. And not only that, there was a rumor that star Matt Hannon had died. His film student daughter found out and Hannon recorded a brief YouTube video explaining that he’s very much alive. And not only that, currently shooting in Los Angeles: Samurai Cop 2!! That’s right – the original gang is back together for a sequel!! I’m not familiar with the filmmakers but they promise to make a real movie this time, but with some inside jokes for fans. Hannon and Frazer are joined by a trio of porn stars (whose names I may or may not have recognized)... actress Bai Ling... The Room’s Tommy Wiseau (!)... and George Lazenby (!!). I don’t know what to expect but I’ll be there on opening night!

If you love bad movies, I can’t recommend this highly enough. If you value things like story and character, not to mention semi-decent camerawork and sound, then maybe it’s not for you. Hannon was recently interviewed by the RLM guys and he comes across as a cool guy who’s just as baffled about all this as I am. I wish him the best of luck.

“What happened? Are you out or in?”
“Baby, I'm always in.”


Tennessee Jed said...

I appreciate the notion of films that are so bad they become camp, either intentionally or not. Probably I was more willing to indulge when younger, particularly hanging out with buddies and giddy from lord knows what. But now, I'm more of a Downton Abbey kind of guy. A fair, well scripted, well acted series that explores the decline of the English class system without making the viewer say the nobility were automatically spoiled useless bastards. Still, I appreciate your review, as always, even though I cannot say "I haven't seen this yet, but it's on my list,"

ScottDS said...

Jed -

I more or less agree with you: life's too short so why bother with stuff that's known to be crap? But then again, only over the last couple of years have I learned about all the gold out in those hills and I wish I had started seeking this stuff out years ago. Few experiences are as fun to me as watching a bad movie with like-minded individuals.

And I have such a huge backlog of TV shows I've been told to watch that I'm starting to resent the obligation!

ScottDS said...


My class is currently fundraising for our BFA graphic design exhibition. I usually hate asking this sort of thing but every cent counts!

Koshcat said...

I'm probably in Jed's area about this film. I could see where it would be fun but would probably need enough pharmacological assistance to put my license in jeopardy.

As a film guy, I was wondering what you thought about the Insidious films? My wife and I watched both of them this week and really enjoyed them. I thought about writing a review but not sure if I have the time. What I liked was how they used lighting and sounds to build suspense. I also liked that the first movie cost $1.5million to make and $5 million for the second but have made about $200 million off of them. Yes the plot has some holes, even a little silly but no gratuitous gore or nudity. There are a few well known directors who should watch those films and learn you can make an entertaining movie without bankrupting the studio.

Kit said...

My reaction to the trailer: "WTF?!"

Looks like it summed up the movie very well.

ScottDS said...

Kosh -

I'm actually not much of a horror guy so I haven't seen those films. And yeah, before CGI, filmmakers had to use things like lighting and editing and good sound design to create suspense and mood. (Compare the two versions of The Haunting... better yet, don't!)

As for budgets, it's a shame Hollywood is the way it is. There have been many articles recently about the death of the mid-level movie. Instead of spending $50 million on a movie in the hopes of making a hundred million, they'd rather spend $300 million in the hopes of making a billion.

ScottDS said...

Kit -

Yep! It's fun to watch with friends but that's it. Like I've said before, it takes a special alchemy to make a bad movie that's also watchable. So many bad movies are just... boring.

AndrewPrice said...

Hi everybody!

Several of you have sent me emails since I haven't commented in a couple days. Thanks for your concern! :) I am alive! My legs are doing much better, but I'm dealing with a secondary issue that has all but immobilized me the last couple days -- nature's sense of humor causes one condition to worse as the other gets better. //rolls eyes

Sorry for not updating you sooner or commenting, but it kind of took me by surprise.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I haven't seen it,but it looks and sounds like a turd.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

It is, but as I said above, some turds are more fun than others.

P.S. I saw some Kubrick references yesterday! I'd be happy to set up a Google alert so you'll be notified as soon as there is one. :-)

P.P.S. In case anyone's feeling charitable.

Kit said...

Question: Anyone seen American Sniper yet?

I have not but plan to see sometime later this week.

ScottDS said...

Kit -

I haven't, but I will at some point. (I'm more into Redboxing these days.)

It's heartbreaking to read some of the reactions. Both the left and right are claiming it as one of their "own" and, Michael Moore's idiotic comments notwithstanding, it seems some folks are taking any criticisms of the film a tad, uh, personally.

Andrew Price said...

Everyone, I'm in the hospital for the week. Please check out the open thread at the main site for more details. I'll be back as soon as I can.

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