Written by: George Pacheco on February 2nd, 2016
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 2015
Director: Gregory Hatanaka
Writers: Rich Mallery, Gregory Hatanaka
Cast: Matt Karedas, Mark Frazer, Bai Ling, Kayden Kross, Tommy Wiseau, Kristine DeBell, Laurene Landon, Joe Estevez
BluRay released: January 12th, 2016
Approximate running times: 93 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
BluRay Release: Cinema Epoch
Region Coding: Region A / Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
There’s a fine line between bad on purpose, and just plain bad. Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance does have some creative things going for it, and the creators behind this sequel to the 1991 cult classic were clearly not out to make a purposefully or ironically “bad” movie, but the end results are sadly still far from enjoyable.
First, the good news: Samurai Cop 2 looks great. Director Gregory Hatanaka-who also founded Cinema Epoch back in 2001-and his crew took out a Kickstarter to help fund this sequel, and it’s nice to see that Hatanaka’s film is properly lit with some frankly gorgeous shots. A curious amount of five cinematographers worked on this thing, apparently, but too many chefs definitely didn’t crowd the kitchen, as there’s an artfulness to how some of these shots are composed which denotes a definite eye for cinema. The editing is a mixed bag, suffering sometimes from too quick a hand, while other scenes are thankfully allowed to breathe a little and set themselves up. It’s clear either way that the crew are trying their best here to make a good looking movie.
Samurai Cop 2 brings together Matt Karedas and Mark Frazer once again as partners Joe Marshall and Frank Washington, estranged heroes who are brought back together to settle a violent and bizarre war between two rival Japanese corporations. There are some obvious nods and homage paid to director Amir Shervan’s original film, specifically how bonkers and off the rails it was with regards to reaction shots, acting and sexuality. Hatanaka makes sure to get plenty of shots where Frazer or Karedas are grinning for the camera, while other actors from the first installment return to reprise their roles, including veteran fight choreographer Gerald Okamura.
These efforts range from touching-such as naming an officer Z’Dar, after the fallen former co-star of Samurai Cop Robert Z’Dar-to downright obnoxious, with a particular offense being the film’s wildly uneven acting. Again, there’s a level of bad which is acceptable due to innocence and enthusiasm, and another the depths to which porn actress Kayden Kross’ acting descends. Granted, Ms. Kross probably wasn’t cast for her thespian chops, but she takes up way too much screen time for someone with line reading this poor.
Bai Ling isn’t much better; a shrieking harpy who brings in yet another wince-inducing performance masquerading as “unorthodox” or “over the top.” Sure, the camera loves her, but Ling is frankly better seen and not heard. The best acting here is from the two leads and some of the minor supporting characters, including Laurene Landon and Kristine DeBell as two members of Frazer’s police squad. Joe Estevez shows up to cash a check as the angry chief, but his bluster goes beyond caricature and begs for the mute button.
The plot is beyond convoluted. This was apparently done on purpose, according to the commentary here by Hatanaka, but this then begs the question…why? Why needlessly bury what could be a very simple and fun action flick with a messy script, delivered by hack actors? It becomes difficult to pick up what the filmmakers are putting down, simply because we don’t give a shit. The action shifts from character to character, with a seemingly endless amount of title cards informing the audience where we are and to whom we’re speaking. Samurai Cop 2 falls apart almost before it ever gets started.
The film also seems to think that it’s connecting with its predecessor by accentuating the excesses of that first film, but it really couldn’t feel farther from the truth. There’ an abundance of nudity and sex here, but it all feels shoehorned and calculated. The fight choreography is fun, particularly on the end of Karedas, who still looks great as the titular Samurai Cop. The CGI special effects are jarringly bad and out of place, however, coming off as raw, incomplete bullet squibs waiting to be properly set up later on down the line. The filmmakers would’ve been better off not to have included them in the first place.
Sadly, Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance can’t rely on its looks alone to carry forward the series’ legacy, proving that lightning just doesn’t strike twice.
Cinema Epoch’s Blu-Ray of Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance arrives in full 1080p HD with an incredibly sharp and clear picture. There’s no evidence of digital artifacting or compression issues, while the 5.1 Dolby audio track is nicely rendered, as well. Two audio commentaries are present on the disc, one with stars Karedas and Frazer, and the other with director Gregory Hatanaka. The latter is a bit more informative, as the director fills in the audience to the challenges of working quickly and cheaply with this kind of budget. Frazer and Karedas are fun to follow, as well, but their track features a few more drops where no one is really saying much at all.
Behind the scenes footage, a still gallery, trailer and deleted scenes are also present here, making this a nice package for those fans of the Samurai Cop franchise with a more forgiving eye towards this unsuccessful sequel.