Written by: George Pacheco on July 18th, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1991
Director: Amir Shervan
Writer: Amir Shervan
Cast: Robert Z’Dar, Matt Hannon, Jannis Farley, Mark Frazer, Melissa Moore, Cameron, Gerald Okamura, Joselito Rescober, Dale Cummings, Cranston Komuro
DVD Release Date: April 19th, 2013
Approximate Running Time: 96 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
DVD Release: Cinema Epoch
Region Encoding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
The phrase “best worst movie” is one which could certainly apply to Samurai Cop, a hapless action film which simply must be seen to be believed.
Writer/director Amir Shervan was able to crank out a number of cheap ‘n fast action pictures during the late 80s and early 90s, all of which contained ludicrous dubbing, dubious editing and nonsensical dialog to create near mini-masterpieces of unintentional comedic gold.
Samurai Cop embodies this spirit in spades, detailing the “buddy cop” exploits of Joe “Samurai” Marshall and Frank Washington, two reckless and loose cannon cops who are out to curtail Asian gang violence and drug trafficking in the area. The plot is simple and familiar, right down to the inclusion of such action flick clichés as car chases, shoot outs and “the angry police chief,” as Joe and Frank make their way through the ranks of faceless and increasingly stupid gang members.
The titular “Samurai Cop” is played by Matt Hannon, a former Stallone bodyguard who steals the show here for a number of reasons. First off, the man’s lack of acting talent matters little when the dialog is this inane, yet Hannon still manages to make this film a hoot, based simply upon the amount of ridiculous faces he makes from his first appearance to the closing credits.
Secondly, the actor—for reasons known only to Hannon—apparently decided to get a severe haircut halfway during production, resulting in some glaring continuity issues. In other words, get ready for a whole lot of shots featuring Hannon in an ill-fitting black wig, for this is the level to which Samurai Cop sinks at the end of the day. It’s shameless but brilliantly fun.
Elsewhere, Hannon’s character is an irredeemable sleaze bag most of the time, schtuping anything with a heartbeat when he’s not icing bad guys, while his partner Washington has little else to do besides make faces and try and keep up with Joe Samurai. Maniac Cop heavy Robert Z’Dar plays the confusingly named Yamashita, a villainous henchman who’s out to do his worst to nearly every cop on the force, in order to make his way to Joe. This description pretty much just enables Z’Dar to do what he does best: chew the scenery and play it straight for all he’s worth. The film’s original poster art and VHS covers also do their best to cash in on Z’Dar’s Maniac Cop fame, as well.
Samurai Cop is so deeply flawed, that it cannot help but be entertaining. The film is similar to the recently unearthed Miami Connection in that the whole affair is so bizarre and far removed from what it’s attempting—indeed, it quickly becomes clear that Shervan and Co. were really trying to make a good movie here—that it skyrockets above and beyond “bad,” into “fucking awesome” territory.
Characters changing voices, bad guys dying multiple deaths on screen, gratuitous nudity and socially insensitive humor…it’s all here tied up with a bow with Samurai Cop, the bad movie lover’s dream.
Cinema Epoch presents Samurai Cop in a widescreen presentation, culled from the original camera negative. There are consistent levels of dirt and debris, but never enough to detract from the overall viewing experience. Colors are similarly uneven, ranging from bright and clear to somewhat drab and muted, but again not reaching a level of annoyance. Sound quality is, again, mainly good, but the film’s awkward periods of dubbing doesn’t help these matters.
Extras include two still galleries, a fan made trailer and three separate interviews with cinematographer Peter Palian and stars Z’Dar and Okamura. Z’Dar’s interview was conducted via Skype and suffers from some audio glitches, but provides plenty of the actor’s usual backslapping and ego-stroking commentary, with a delivery which proves to be oddly charming. Z’Dar truly is an odd duck.
Elsewhere, Okamura opens up about his career as a martial artist and movie stunt man, while Peter Palian’s piece is difficult to grasp at times, due to the cameraman’s rambling storytelling and the moderator’s uneven interviewing style, sometimes cutting off his subjects Z’Dar and Okamura, yet letting Palian ramble on about such unrelated subjects as shish kabob and Hedy Lamar for what seems like an eternity.
Overall, Cinema Epoch offers Samurai Cop a solid presentation, with varying degrees of quality.