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  Samurai Cop He Don't Play By The Rules (Of Sensible Moviemaking)
Year: 1989
Director: Amir Shervan
Stars: Robert Z'Dar, Matt Hannon, Jannis Farley, Mark Frazer, Melissa Moore, Krista Lane, Gerald Okamura, Joselito Rescober, Dale Cummings, Ali Teymury, Jerry Black, James Waltz, Reginald Williams, Tom Gleason, Robert Moore
Genre: Action, Thriller, TrashBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon) is known as the Samurai Cop for his way with a sword and his code of ethics, by which means he always gets his man. The Katana Clan have been making moves to take over the crime syndicates in Los Angeles, so the police are understandably wishing to halt them in their tracks, but this will be easier said than done, even with Marshall starting on the force this week after a stint in San Diego. The gang they're after have a stash of cocaine smuggled in a van they are trying to hide from the authorities - just right for Marshall to bust.

The straight to video market is usually reserved for stuff to while away an hour and a half without taxing the mind any, so there has to be something particularly notable about any individual title for it to make much of an impression. Such was the case with Samurai Cop, recalled not because it was an unsung masterpiece, rather the opposite: it was so hilariously awful that anyone renting it could not quite believe what they were seeing. The filmmakers appeared familiar with the genre of action thrillers, and were doing their level best to create one indistinguishable from the greater part of the market out there, so what went wrong?

Of course, when I say "went wrong", I mean went absolutely right for the bad movie fans out there. In its attempts to be as meanminded and tough as it could, Samurai Cop wound up looking utterly ridiculous especially in light of how meagre the funds were for the production, with most of the cash presumably going on hiring the closest thing this had to a name, Robert Z'Dar, best known as Maniac Cop, but also for a string of low budget efforts where he would invariably essay the bad guy role. With that famed chin he should really have taken the lead in a Desperate Dan movie, but that, sadly, never came to pass.

Z'Dar was the main heavy in the Katana Clan, in spite of him and many others of their employees displaying no Japanese attributes whatsoever. Not that this stopped our hero Marshall from making racist comments about that country whenever he felt the need arose, which should be offensive but simply made him look even more of a prannett than, well, everything else about him. What can you say about a man who evidently has made it a rule never to take his underpants off in front of a woman, not even for the two gratuitous sex scenes we are treated to? And what about that mane of hair which makes him look more like Fabio than a serving officer on the L.A.P.D? It is to fans of this movie's regret that ex-bodyguard Hannon never made another film: he was comedy gold.

But that's not to do down the rest of the cast, who rise to the occasion with the utmost ludicrousness, even in the bit parts. What are we to make of the nurse who accosts Marshall as he visits a witness in hospital and starts asking him extremely personal questions about his sexual prowess - is she some random insane person? Or the flamboyantly gay Cuban waiter for whom even the subject of violent death is a laugh riot? Watching this perhaps you might see his point, as to make the fight scenes look more dynamic director Amir Shervan speeds them up, rendering them in the style of one of those undercranked silent movies, more Keystone Cops than Dirty Harry. Needless to say, you could pick apart the flaws in Samurai Cop until the cows came home (for example, none of the Japanese characters are actual Samurai, and why does Joe identify himself as such when he hates the Japanese anyway?!) but those flaws are actually its merits, for if it had been any more professional it would be unwatchable. Tinny synth music by Alan DerMarderosian.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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