I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Samurai Cop

tn_samuraicopA Japanese gang called The Katana Gang is on a rampage, so the LAPD call in a specialist.

“So they call him Samurai, huh?” asks the gang leader Fujiyama when he hears about this long-haired Fabio-lookin motherfucker played by former Sylvester Stallone bodyguard Matt Hannon.

“Yes,” explains right hand man Yamashita (Robert Z’Dar). “His real name is Joe Marshall. They call him ‘Samurai.’ He speaks fluent Japanese. He got his martial arts training from the masters in Japan. He was brought over here from the police force in San Diego to fight us.”

This being 1989, the year after ABOVE THE LAW, might have something to do with that backstory. The poster, which has nothing to do with the actual content of the movie, is definitely going for a MANIAC COP vibe. I think there’s some LETHAL WEAPON influence here too, or at least it’s trying to follow the formula of the white cop with loyal black partner who’s kind of bemused at how far the white guy goes over the line in his enforcement of the law. Samurai and his partner Frank (Mark Frazer, MICROWAVE MASSACRE) have alot of weird, sometimes racially uncomfortable banter about what their boss is gonna do to his “charcoal black ass” and stuff like that.

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The chief is pretty funny, he’s always angrier than necessary. I like when he yells to one of his employees “You, motherfucker, I’ll see you in hell! Leave me alone! Get a job!”

mp_samuraicopMelissa Moore (SORORITY HOUSE MASSACRE II, ANGELFIST) plays a fellow officer, and in my opinion this is not a portrayal that the International Association of Women Police would be real proud of. She backs them up from a chopper when they’re catching a guy, tells them they did a good job. Samurai says, “You got it. We’ll see you back at your place,” and it cuts to them sensually caressing each other in bed, both wearing nothing but g-strings.

Later, when they’re joking that the chief is gonna cut Frank’s dick off, she says he should go to her house first. “Let’s use it before you lose it.” And when nothing becomes of that suggestion she says to their other partner “You and I got nothin to do. Let’s fuck.” She does more of that than she does police work. She never really gets to fight like she does in some of her other movies, but she does get hot grease poured on her by Z’Dar.

Samurai also seems way more interested in getting laid than in the investigation. Dropping off a prisoner in a hospital he immediately starts aggressively hitting on a nurse (she turns him down but teases him and asks about his dick size). Then when he follows the gang into a restaurant so he can make a big threatening speech to their lawyer he zeroes in on the white lady that’s with them.

“Excuse me miss. By the way, what’s an all-American girl like you doing with a geek like this?” He figures out where she lives, pretends he needs to go there for police business (unethical), next thing you know they go to the beach together, he makes her a birthday cake while they’re still in their swimsuits, and then he carries her to the bed of caressing.

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This may be as good a time as any to make an observation about the great screen badasses. Now, of course these guys must convey a feeling that they are deliveryman and they have arrived with your knuckle sandwich. But they also have to project a certain type of intelligence. Think about it: Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Lee Marvin, Toshiro Mifune, Bruce Lee… none of these guys seem like dummies. Maybe they couldn’t help with your algebra homework, but you look at their smile and you can just tell they know some shit that you don’t know. Plenty.

I don’t want to be mean but in my opinion Hannon does not share that quality.

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Anyway, Joe the Samurai may mess around on beaches and in kitchens, but the Katanas don’t. Wanting to make an example out of their member who got caught they send Yamashita into the hospital (wheeled in inside a garbage can by a fake hot nurse) to cut off his head. He’s specifically requested to bring back the head and put it on the boss’s piano. (I bet some poor new guy in the gang has to clean the piano, too.)

When Yamashita and Samurai come face to face Yamashita stands a couple dozen feet away and sends a bunch of guys to fight for him. After Samurai beats them up Yamashita pulls out an uzi and guns them all down himself.

This is a cheap ass movie, along the lines of a Fred Olen Ray or something like that, not on the level of polish of, say, Cannon. I wouldn’t say there was any aspect or part of this that legitimately works as an action movie, but it’s pretty funny. The story is 100% generic, only its amateurish execution makes it stand out at all.

Here’s an example of the type of unorthodox directorial decisions we’re dealing with here. Let me know if you think this would be considered an acceptable composition to most professionals:

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It’s the little goofy moments and details like that that make it fun. During a footchase, a guy tears around a corner and a panting dog behind the fence runs excitedly along side him. Okamura has the arcade game Defender in his house – he doesn’t play it or anything but you notice he has it and wonder what the deal is. I guess if you’re in a gang where you can be loyal for years and still get your head cut off you need something to relieve the stress when you get home. Also there’s the off-puttingly, uh… comedic? performance by a wacky ethnic gay guy they get information from. And the Jessica Rabbit poster inside what I thought was supposed to be a police station.

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Set design by Spencer’s Gifts, I guess.

Yamashita seems way more like a samurai than Samurai does. But I guess our guy, having been in Japan one time, does know a little bit about that stuff. In the end he sword fights Yamashita and (spoiler) wins. Then he uses the samurai code against him.

“You lost. You lost face,” he points out.

“You know the code of the Bushido,” Yamashita counters. “Kill me.”

And it seems like he’s actually gonna do it, but Frank knows that would be fucked up so he yells “No! You’re a cop!”

It’s true. Even a cop from San Diego knows that cutting off a dude’s head with a sword and saying it’s so he can “die with honor” is not gonna get past the inquest without a fight. So cooler minds prevail, they don’t behead him at all. They let him cut his belly open himself and bleed to death. Cut to Samurai on the beach making out with the girl again.

Director Amir Shervan was maybe better known for 1990’s KILLING AMERICAN STYLE, another crazy Robert Z’Dar cult movie. Shervan and Hannon have both passed away, so I’m gonna have to forget about my idea for SAMURAI COP 2: OTAKUPOCALYPSE, in which San Diego cop Joe “Samurai” Marshall is called into action one last time to use his swordsmanship, rule breaking and knowledge of Japan to rescue his niece from a large comics convention held hostage by anime fan terrorists.

PLOT TWIST: As David Lambert points out, Matt Hannon is apparently alive, according to what appears to be him in a video shirtless in his kitchen posted on Youtube this month:

He also seems to have posted on the IMDb message boards as recently as today. If it’s really him he might want to correct his IMDb entry and bio, which say he died 31 March, 2012 in Champaign, Illinois. A Google search found death notices for such a Matthew Hannon, and one obituary says the deceased spent some time as a set decorator in California (the Hannon we’re looking for is credited as a carpenter on THE BLOB and NIGHT OF THE CREEPS.)

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2014 at 12:10 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

45 Responses to “Samurai Cop”

  1. So glad you reviewed this fun movie. Been enjoying it for years. I had an email exchange with this dude Buck Striker (who played a cop in KILLING AMERICAN STYLE). He had a ton of insane stories about Shervan. He says once they were shooting illegally in L.A. somewhere, flying around in this phoney cop car, when an actual cop came out and yelled at them. Buck said Shervan lost his shit and threatened to blow up the cop’s family. Man was a rogue, apparently.

  2. This has been a personal favorite for a while now. There’s a certain subsection of eighties action made in America by foreign-born directors (as opposed to foreign-made films pretending to take place in America) that almost never fails to deliver the WTF. You got this, you got MIAMI CONNECTION, you got Amir Shervan’s earlier HOLLYWOOD COP (same basic movie, minus swords). You got this one I saw called REVOLT that’s sort of like an action movie crossed with a film strip you’d watch in health class. You got the collected works of Jalal Merhi. There’s just something so lovable about how gung ho these films are to ape every single trend in American cinema they can get their hands on, without ever having a real firm grasp of the culture behind those trends. They’re all glorious train wrecks and I recommend them all.

  3. “OTAKUPOCALYPSE” is the funniest fucking word ever invented. It doesn’t necessarily LOOK as funny as it is. But I challenge everyone: say it out loud right now.

    I salute you, Vern.

  4. Recommendations! Anybody got any great terrible action movies they want to plug? I keep pimping this flick called ACTION U.S.A., which was made by and (I’m assuming) for professional stuntmen in the late eighties. The first scene is a rockin’ credits sequence involving a luxury automobile The second scene has a naked woman. The third has a dude getting thrown out of a helicopter–and living. The stunts in this amazing piece of crap are better than you’d normally get in a movie of this caliber, but the filmatism is and acting is chockfull of that endearing artisanal quality we all love. Majestyk says check it out.

  5. Knox Harrington

    June 24th, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Majestyk, maybe you can help with this. Back in the 80’s there was this action movie where the hero’s mentor teaches him to catch bullets (which is something I’ve been trying to do ever since). I think there was also a bit where this sensei walks on water or something. That’s all I can remember, really, but back then it blew my fragile little mind.

  6. That’s an easy one. REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS, based on the DESTROYER book series (unread by me, but apparently quite different from the movie) starring Fred Ward as the titular hero and (believe it or not) Joel Grey as the sensei. A minor cult classic in the BUCKAROO BONZAI vein. Sadly, there was no REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES, but it’s never too late.

  7. @Knox Must be Remo Williams. I love that film! The training sequences are Yoda-style awesome.

    For a very enjoyable bad action film from way back, I can recommend The Ultimate Weapon with Hulk Hogan or Fire Ice and Dynamite with Roger Moore.

  8. I have THE ULTIMATE WEAPON! It’s just been sitting there for so long that I damn near forgot about it.

    Another good one is ONE MAN FORCE, starring former NFL lineman, party animal, and all-around gigantic fucker-people-upper John “Tooz” Matuszak (ICE PIRATES). It’s your standard “renegade cop out for revenge flick” with a good supporting cast (Ronny Cox, Charles Napier, Richard Lynch, Sam Jones) and a lot of WWF-style over-emoting from the big man himself. This movies takes the “Angry chief and maverick detective yell at each other” trope about as far as it can go. It gets boring in parts but you don’t generally see movies where the hero is a 6′ 8″ mountain of a man.

  9. Mr. Majestyk – yup, from Guy Hamilton who directed quite a few of the 007 films.

    I’ve read a few DESTROYER books. Real right wing bent with alot of satire that the movie sorta downplayed, which I think is what pissed off the authors. Still those books can be funny.

  10. In a better world Hannon’s speech at the restaurant confrontation would be the new pledge of allegiance. Lots of fun in “Samurai Cop”, but that entire scene is wall-to-wall amazement. A badass factoid: It’s reported that Hannon was once a bodyguard for Stallone.

    Majestyk, I like your theory about foreign-born directors doing USA 80s action. Add John Z. Rad to the list. “Dangerous Men” popped up at a number of midnight shows about 5 years back, but it never landed a video release from the likes of Drafthouse or Grindhouse. Probably red tape, though I’d like to believe it’s because the movie is so freaky and inept. “Samurai Cop” is recognizable as an action film; “Dangerous Men” is its own animal. Genuine outsider art.

    Also, I’ve seen “One Man Force”. A buddy’s brother plays the fluttery guy who gets tossed aside by Matuszak: “Throw me again, Superman!”

  11. Monsigneur Majestyk, if you haven’t already you absolutely have to check out Sam Firstenberg’s AVENGING FORCE from 1986. Michael Dudikoff kicking ass in the swamps of Louisiana.

  12. Not sure where I should post this, since I can’t find a Vern review of any of his films, but RIP Eli Wallach.

  13. Knox Harrington

    June 25th, 2014 at 4:54 am

    Gentlemen, I thank you. So nice to have friends who know these things.

    Fred Ward and Joel Grey. Holy shit.

  14. Hannon is still alive: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9SDZ_UjaNM

    Also, I can second Majestyk’s recommendation of Revolt. I think it’s on Netflix instant, actually.

  15. flyingguillotine

    June 25th, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    I can whole-heartedly recommend NO SAFE HAVEN, starring Wings Hauser.

    The main antagonist is played by Branscombe Richmond, who Seagalogists will immediately recognize as the dude Seagal fights in Chinatown in HARD TO KILL, said fight culminating with Seagal winning and dropping a big mask on Richmond’s unconscious body while his son watches and laughs. Mr. Richmond completely turns it up to 11 in HAVEN. No line reading is too big, no scenery too big to chew.

    It also has a lot of fun details, like Popeye the arms dealer who lives in a plane graveyard with his super serious gun-nut son. Plus, in an early scene, while Wings is still on assignment for the CIA in South America, he amuses himself by stealing a soccer ball from a couple of kids and randomly throwing it straight up in the air and walking away. Then he makes fun of his hot secretary for not shaving her armpits frequently enough for his taste. It’s pretty wild.

  16. I can add a few:

    DAY OF THE PANTHER by Brian Trenchard-Smith, an Australian martial arts action movie about the exploits of Jason Blade, a pink jumper wearing bro initiated into an ultra secret group of kung fu secret agents. The sequel STRIKE OF THE PANTHER is almost exactly the same movie, but worth a look, too.

    All three of the movies Billy Blanks made with Jalal Merhi are gold: EXPECT NO MERCY (my favourite, but it’s close); TC2000; and TALONS OF THE EAGLE (a Super Kumite contender). HIDDEN TIGER, a solo Blanks joint, is worth a look too.

    Wings Hauser’s directorial efforts are fantastic – he’s going for a level of profundity way beyond what the budget will allow. I’ve seen COLDFIRE, LIVING TO DIE, and GANG BOYZ. The latter is especially moving, a heartfelt plea to end racism, containing a scene where Wings is urinated on by his (actual) son, and an almost Wiseau-esque love scene with Wings, poor Linda Blair, and two hilariously obvious body doubles. It’s like he was gunning for an Oscar but with a budget barely scraping five figures.

  17. Yes, once again Vern has his finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.

  18. I still need to see this one, but I recently saw KILLING AMERICAN STYLE and loved it.

    Vern, I would be interested on your thoughts on KILLING AMERICAN STYLE because it seems to borrow heavily from the themes and motifs of Seagology.

  19. Mr. M, I will have to check out ACTION U.S.A. have you seen LADY TERMINATOR?

  20. Ah KILLING AMERICAN STYLE. Hands down one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen in my life. And whoa at the LADY TERMINATOR reference there Charles. I haven’t seen that one since it first hit home video.

  21. I’ve never seen this one but since it’s from the same guy that made KILLING AMERICAN STYLE and it has Z’Dar with a beard I’m gonna have to track it down.

  22. Charles: I have. It was the first vintage Indonesian film I’d ever seen, and it hooked me for life. I’ve seen some weird shit. I’ve seen Turkish ripoffs of American films. I’ve seen Filipino monster movies. I’ve seen the patchwork inanities of Godfrey Ho. I’ve seen gay German art-horror porn. But Indonesian movies are some other shit.

    I also recommend MYSTICS IN BALI and QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC, also released by Mondo Macabro, a video label so reliably weird that I tend to buy their products sight unseen if the price is right.

  23. Mr. M, I own LADY TERMINATOR and MYSTICS IN BALI. I want to check out QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC. I also agree that Mondo Macabro is a great label. LADY TERMINATOR is gloriously insane and one of my favorite “bad” films. It really is incredible.

  24. Have you seen FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY? Also from Mondo Macabro, it’s your basic Filipino James Bond spoof starring a little person named Weng Weng. Based on that premise, you would expect the joke to get old pretty quick, but this movie is something special. It keeps coming up with new ridiculousness for the duration. And Weng himself is a delight. He seems to be having a blast romancing full-sized ladies and pummeling testicles everywhere he goes. It wouldn’t be as much fun if it felt like he was being exploited, but he has a cocky charm that sets you at ease.

    I also watched one of his other films, THE IMPOSSIBLE KID, but it wasn’t as good. I haven’t gotten around to his western, THE WILD WILD WENG, yet.

  25. I was around 9 or 10 when I rented LADY TERMINATOR. I watched it expecting killer robot chicks what I got was far more sinister. My fragile little mind wasn’t ready but growing up in a bad neighbor the video store was one of my only escapes so I just rented pretty much everything that had a funny or cool looking cover or title. It’s funny to me that 20 years later the first thing to pop in my head when reading the words LADY TERMINATOR is serpent vaginal rape.

  26. Broddie, LADY TERMINATOR at age 9 would be a real mind fuck.

    MR. M, I have been dying to see FOR YOUR HIGHT ONLY since I saw a trailer for it at the Alamo theater. It looks amazing.

  27. Charles: You gotta get that Mondo Macabro DVD. It’s a double feature with CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER, and insane Bruce Le (or, as the French call him, Bruce The) vehicle about a mad scientist’s plot to destroy the world’s sperm. It opens with five minutes of slow-mo topless volleyball. Highly recommended.

    I wrote an epic review of FOR Y’R HEIGHT ONLY, but MySpace swallowed it up years ago. As compensation, I offer my review of THE IMPOSSIBLE KID, which discusses FYHO pretty extensively: http://mistermajestyk.blogspot.com/2010/08/impossible-kid.html

  28. Thanks, I will check it out.

  29. I got around to checking this one out and liked it even more then KILLING AMERICAN STYLE. I think I laughed out loud more at this film then I have at any intentionally comedic film I have seen in years.

    Does anybody know why Hannon seems be wearing a wig half the time? I am guessing it was reshoots or something like that. I swear when he fights Z’Dar there are shots where he is wearing the wig and shots without it, but is seems to show up and disappear throughout the film.

  30. Yeah, I heard an interview with one of the actors somewhere, he said they ran out of money and picked up again a long time later when Hannon had different hair.

  31. Did we ever definitively establish whether or not Matt Hannon died in 2012?

  32. Definitely still alive. They’re kickstarting a (probly too self conscious) part 2 that even references his alleged death in the tagline:

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/samuraicop2/samurai-cop-2-deadly-vengeance

    I think it was an honest case of mistaken identity based on a guy with the same name and coincidental biographical similarities having died. The weirdest part is that co-star Mark Frazer, in the interview I referenced earlier, believed that Hannon was at that time planning to do this sequel without him.

  33. The guys at Red Letter media interviewed Matt Hannon about SAMURAI COP recently. here is a link to the interview; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8830UXkTzY

  34. Thanks to Mr Majestyk who made me aware of FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY. I am currently watching it on YouTube and it truly is a hoot! I own THE IMPOSSIBLE KID (Millcreek 50-movie boxset) so I might actually dig into that as well.

  35. Glad you like it, Shoot. Be aware that IMPOSSIBLE KID is a step down in terms of ridiculousness. It almost seems to be taking the concept of a Filipino midget James Bond seriously, though, which is its own kind of absurd.

  36. He moves really well, though. I call his ancient art of sneakery “midg-jitsu”. It´s clear that what he does wouldn´t have worked with a full-sized person; sneaking under tables, hiding in bushes. .One might actually think that midgets makes the best secret agents. James Bond certainly isn´t secret or sneaky.

  37. I agree that Weng’s fight scenes are surprisingly credible. He’s quick and hard to hit, and he’s not afraid to fight dirty. The secret to his movies is that while they are ridiculous, Weng is legitimately awesome. He’s got this twinkle in his eye that speaks of great confidence and dignity. I’m tired of seeing little people portrayed solely as punchlines so I like that the joke is almost never on Weng; it’s on those who underestimate him.

  38. Yes, it has been successfully funded! Guess we’ll be seing the second episode soon!
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/samuraicop2/samurai-cop-2-deadly-vengeance?ref=nav_search

  39. For those of you that enjoyed SAMURAI COP I recently saw HARD TICKET TO HAWAII, and I can’t recommend it enough. It is lovably bonkers. I could go on and on about all the great things in the movie like the gratuitous nudity and gore, awkward line readings and hilarious plot (it involves battling drug dealers & and a deadly snake that has been contaminated by lab rat cancer!), but all you need to do is watch the clip provided in the link below and I will let it do the talking for me.

    https://youtu.be/tAaPeMMJLgs

  40. HARD TICKET is definitely the finest piece of work Boobmeister Emiritas Andy Sidaris ever put out. It’s not appreciably different from any of the other couple dozen movies he made about Playboy Playmates with rocket launchers, but then that giant snake pops up at the end and puts it over the top.

    Just don’t mistake its tongue-in-cheek titsploitation for the enjoyable incompetence of SAMURAI COP or MIAMI CONNECTION, which are entertaining in ways their makers never intended. HARD TICKET works for exactly the reasons Sidaris wanted it to work.

  41. I agree that HARD TICKET is more self aware and tongue-in-cheek then SC & MC, but it’s earnestness to entertain is undeniable.

    I am going to watch MALIBU EXPRESS next. Any other recommendations?

  42. That’s a good one. I also recommend his first movie, SEVEN, which originated the “shoot the swordsman” gag from the first Indiana Jones movie, if you can find it. To be honest, the other ones tend to run together for me, but I’d stick as close to his eighties output as you can. Back then a low budget could still get you a bunch of explosions and helicopters and car crashes, so they just feel a bit more like real movies, production-wise, than the nineties movies. Which makes them funnier, in my opinion.

  43. Thanks, I agree about the difference between the 80’s productions vs the 90’s productions.

    I also recently watched the amazingly titled AMERICAN CYBORG: STEEL WARRIOR the other day and it was enjoyable. I noticed Isaac Florentine did the fight choreography on that one. Actually considering that Florentine worked on ACSW, and it is a Cannon film I am kind of surprised it looks like Vern hasn’t reviewed it yet.

  44. I saw SAMURAI COP at a bad movie party a couple years back, and it is a total hoot!!!

    This comment discussion needs to be bookmarked, you guys list so many fun/bad/awesome movies thatvI really need to catch up with!

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