Written by: George Pacheco on April 16th, 2014
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1990
Director: Amir Shervan
Writer: Amir Shervan
Cast: Robert Z’dar, Jim Brown, Harold Diamond
DVD Release Date: March 25th, 2014
Approximate Running Time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Cinema Epoch
Region Encoding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.95
Killing American Style was the third in a series of Americanized action pictures from Iranian born writer, director and producer Amir Shervan. The film served as a follow-up to Shervan’s Hollywood Cop and Samurai Cop from ’87 and ’89, respectively and captures a similarly awkward-yet-endearing low budget atmosphere and vibe. Though it was released after Samurai Cop, Killing American Style was actually shot before it.
Shervan is clearly flying by the seat of his pants here as he tells the tale of a group of violent, escaped convicts who take a family hostage after a heist goes wrong. The gang is led by infamous B-movie actor Robert Z’dar (Maniac Cop) as Tony Stone, a ruthless killer whose brother Jesse is gravely wounded by a policeman’s bullet. Z’dar’s performance is over-the-top, yet performed with the utmost seriousness as the actor relishes in Stone’s wild man behavior, while co-star John Lynch ups the sleaze factor with his performance as Stone’s rapist accomplice.
Meanwhile, character actor Jimmy Williams hams it up as the screwball comic relief gang member Loony, and 1970s action star Jim Brown collects a paycheck with a dazed ‘n confused performance as a police lieutenant assigned to the case. Harold Diamond plays John, the family patriarch who takes matters into his own hands and eliminates the gang one by one in a long and protracted series of unfocused action sequences.
Of course, this isn’t to say that Killing American Style isn’t profoundly entertaining, because Shervan’s film is practically bad movie gold in this regard. The film is comparatively straight laced when it comes to the sheer ridiculousness of its predecessor Samurai Cop, but there are plenty of opportunities for camp, as evidenced by the poor dubbing, laughable stunts and hopeless acting skills which define most of the supporting cast.
Diamond seems to possess an eternally surprised look on his face, and always seems to be waiting for off-screen direction, while Z’dar chews the scenery for all he’s worth, dominating the screen every time he appears on camera. The music of Alan DerMarderosian is surprisingly capable, aping the energetic synth cues which often populated this sort of tough guy cinema in the 80s while proving the musician’s work as a go-to composer for such other low budget indie ditties as Hobgoblins and the Vice Academy series.
Killing American Style may be many things: cheap, awkward and shoddy…but it’s never boring. Rather, Shervan’s film is indicative of the sort of bad movie glory which is destined for inebriated group viewings and midnight screenings to a howling, approving crowd.
Cinema Epoch presents Killing American Style in an anamorphic widescreen presentation which preserves the film’s original aspect ratio. There are minor instances of print damage here and there, but overall the presentation is strong, with colors and flesh tones generally looking good for the film’s age and rarity. The sound mix also fine, with every dubbed and flubbed line audible for all to hear. Extras include the film’s trailer and an interview with actor Alexander Verdin, who portrays Stone’s wounded brother Jess e in the film. Overall, Killing American Style receives a solid presentation from Cinema Epoch.