I like to believe that Amir Shervan was a guy with a dream. A dream where men with flowing hair and muscles fired lots of bullets at each other in between seducing beautiful women. Watching Samurai Cop, you’re unsure if Shervan is the worst filmmaker who ever lived, or a comedy genius. No way could anybody create something so incompetent, so bizarre, so plain stupid by accident. On further investigation into his previous work, you realize that Samurai Cop was no fluke. Hollywood Cop (1987) and Killing American Style (1990) are both brilliantly ridiculous too. Think of Shervan as being a cut rate Andy Sidaris (at best) and you’ll maybe start getting an idea of what to expect here.
USA, 1989, Amir Shervan
He’s been brought in by the LAPD to fight the Katana Gang, headed by Fujiyama (the performer’s real name is missing from the credits, and for the life of me, I can’t find out who he is).
The Katana Gang are smuggling drugs into the country. Fujiyama is protected by not one but two bad-asses of cinema: Yamashita (Robert Z’Dar) and Okamura (played by, er, Gerald Okamura from Big Trouble in Little China).
When the gang discover that there is a Samurai Cop out to get them, they plan to strike first. But Joe Marshall isn’t one to be trifled with. On his first day in LA, he kills two henchmen, savagely burns another from head to toe, and then seduces the police helicopter pilot by lunchtime. This all happens in the first FIVE minutes of the movie. Samurai Cop moves fast, so keep up.
After being ostracised and pressured for results by the chief (Dale Cummings) Marshall, and his gleefully stereotyped black partner, Frank Washington (Mark Frazer), go to pick a fight with Fujiyama face to face. Marshall figures the best way to get under the skin of Fujiyama is to embarrass him in front of his girlfriend, Jennifer (Jannis Farley) by calling him a geek.
He later finds out her name, courtesy of the cheekiest gay waiter to ever grace cinema.
Joe Marshal uses his detective skills not to trap the Katana Gang, but to hunt down Jennifer… at her office… where he just left. This unexpectedly leads to the best, and most random shot in the movie.
After treating her to a romantic meal and a walk by the beach, he later seduces her by singing happy birthday his briefs. All in a day’s work.
While this romantic subplot goes on, Fujiyama systematically starts killing/torturing everybody on Marshall’s team. In one particularly harsh scene, a squad member is forced to watch while Yamashita slits his wife’s throat in front of him. He too is killed shortly after.
The next victim is the helicopter pilot, Peggy (b-movie stalwart, Melissa Moore), who is beaten and has a pan of boiling fat poured over her nether-regions.
Finally, Frank is attacked by two goons who threaten to cut off his “black gift”, but he outwits them and escapes.
These scenes are genuinely uncomfortable to watch and are totally out of tune with the rest of the movie, but I like that it sustains this bad feeling for as long as it does. In a movie as strange and amusing as Samurai Cop, it’s too easy to just play for laughs all the time. A little darkness can go a long way, and these scenes really separate the men from the boys.
It doesn’t last though, and before long we’re back into goofball territory as Marshall and Frank take the fight to the Katana Gang at Fujiyama’s compound. For reasons I couldn’t quite work out, Fujiyama had kidnapped Jennifer. Perhaps I looked away from the screen for 30 seconds and missed it. That’s how quickly things happen in this flick. The finale of the film is a showdown between Marshall and Yamashita. This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. The final samurai battle between two masters…
Words can’t describe how disappointing the swordsmanship is in this movie. It’s pretty clear neither actor has ever held a samurai sword before. If it was any other film this would be the final nail in the coffin, but over the course of 80 minutes this bizarre movie has charmed you so hard that you just let them get away with it.
There’s something glorious and magical about Amir Shervan’s movies that I can’t resist. It’s like taking a peek into the unfiltered mind of an intense 14 year old boy’s macho wet dream fantasy, and on that level it is one of the truest guilty pleasures in my collection. Its uneasy mixture of tasteless laughs and extreme violence makes it essential viewing for trash lovers. If you’re looking to get into the work of Amir Shervan, this is most definitely the place to start.
The plotting is really quite straightforward for such a strange and cheap movie. It lacks any kind of visual flair. The editing is a disaster. The sound is atrocious and the story is poor. The late 80s and 90s were a ripe time for cheapo-action flicks, many of which resemble Samurai Cop – and most of them are completely without any redeeming merit. What distinguishes this movie from the other knock-offs of its time is the genius scripting and fast pace.
The performances in this movie strongly suggest that everybody knew how ridiculous it all was, which adds to the fun factor. And while I wouldn’t call Samurai Cop a good movie in any sense, it does contain pretty much everything I look for in an entertaining movie. And entertain, it does. Gloriously. All I know, is that if somebody gave me £10,000 to make a movie in LA, I’d probably make a movie like Samurai Cop and that’s why I love it so much.
If you aren’t convinced by now then I’ll show you a clip of this now legendary scene as my closing gambit…
Samurai Cop recently received a special edition DVD release from Cinema Epoch.