The Swordsman / Gladiator Cop

THE SWORDSMAN is an only-on-VHS Lorenzo Lamas joint from 1992. Coming two years after the end of Falcon Crest (for which Lamas was the only actor to appear in all 227 episodes), this was a particularly productive period for the actor and Taekwondo and karate black belt. His other films released that year were FINAL IMPACT, SNAKE EATER III… HIS LAW and CIA CODE NAME: ALEXA.

I’ve only seen one of those, but I bet none of them open with text about a king in ancient Greece:


Lorenzo Lamas plays Andrew, a cool long-haired homicide detective who has psychic visions when he touches blood and in his spare time dreams images of himself in a robe looking at old statues and swords and fighting a guy with a hood hiding his face. Then he’ll wake up, add a sketch to his dream journal, and tie his hair into a ponytail.

Andrew has a comic relief partner named Leo (Frank Crudele, BLACKJACK, STEP UP ALL IN, one episode of Highlander: The Series) and a therapist (Michael Copeman, THUNDERGROUND, SCANNERS III, UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II, six episodes of Highlander: The Raven including the pilot) who you can tell is kind of a cool ex-hippie type because he has grey hair but wears a colorful Hawaiian shirt and is into experimental therapies.

One day on a case they find a guy who’s been stabbed, and when Andrew’s hand touches the blood he starts to convulse and have images of his future.

Meanwhile, antique sword expert Julie (Claire Stansfield, BEST OF THE BEST 2, DROP ZONE, STEEL) goes to a warehouse where she discovers

1) the priceless sword she’s been waiting for is not in the crate

2) there’s a dead body

3) the guys who did it, including a scary guy named Jojo (Raoul Trujillo, HIGHLANDER: THE FINAL DIMENSION), are still nearby in their diaper service truck

I guess he cut his hair before the photo shoot.

But she gets away. Because Andrew is in the doghouse for being a psychic all the time, the captain (Eugene Clark, who I should’ve recognized as “Big Daddy,” the lead zombie from LAND OF THE DEAD!) puts him on babysit-the-sword-expert duty. This angers him even though they have interests in common – did I mention that in his spare time he wins a fencing competition and gets an invitation and business card from a mysterious trenchcoat man named Stratos (Michael Champion, BEVERLY HILLS COP, PINK CADILLAC, TOTAL RECALL, TOY SOLDIERS)?

At first Andrew and Julie don’t get along at all, and she tries to drive off without him, but he explains “I didn’t ask for this. I got assigned to this because I fucked up on another job.” She laughs and it endears him to her and she lets him drive her to her business meeting at a mansion while sexy saxophone music plays.

One uncomfortable thing that happens while he’s watching her is she finds him on her back porch in his underwear asleep and having a nightmare. It’s revealing not only because she sees his deep psychological turmoil and tattoos, but because his past-the-shoulders hair is down. I think the ponytail looks way less ridiculous, but some women loved a Fabio type back then, and Julie is apparently one of them. Poor lady gets some good romantic humpin from him, but also lots of drama, including the police-investigation-is-going-bad-cold-shoulder, the jealous-because-you’re-talking-to-Stratos bitchiness, a late night dream convulsion that leaves her in tears, and a traumatic experience where he actually dies and almost doesn’t respond to CPR after his therapist administers an experimental drug to help him enter his visions.

When Andrew draws Julie a picture of the sword from his dream and it matches the Alexander the Great sword that only she knows about that was stolen, she starts to believe his mystical dream business. In fact, she tries to convince him that he’s the reincarnation of Alexander, which he’s skeptical about.

He starts following the dream clues and decides to go to Stratos’ invite-only fencing club, which I’m sure you will be straight up flabbergasted to learn involves a to-the-death competition in front of mildly amused rich people. He competes but is able to get away with kicking a guy unconscious because they don’t technically have to kill the guy to win, they just usually do. And he ends up at various parties with Stratos walking around carrying a drink, having loaded conversations. At a yacht party he sees some guys throwing a body overboard. He yells “Hey!” and runs over but the guys are gone. Oh well.

One scene I didn’t totally understand is when Andrew goes to ask Stratos about fighting and he makes him wait because he’s at a grave mourning someone. I really like it if that was supposed to be the grave of the swordsman he just had killed, but I’m not sure that’s what it is. Andrew asks him what happened to the guy who lost the match last night and he says, “Oh, I don’t know, it’s not important.”

So much happens that I forgot about Andrew getting psychic visions from touching blood, but when he gets wounded in a match and touches his own blood he gets to see some of the same dream shit he’s been seeing from the beginning. It always seems to give him ideas, though.

The tournament aspect kind of gets dumped when Andrew knocks the little wooden pieces representing each of the fighters off of their hooks and says to Jojo, “Forget these preliminaries, I want you. Whoever walks away gets the sword.” Jojo looks at Stratos, who thinks about it for a second, then nods. Okay, cool, but this is very unfair to a couple other competitors. Yet another reason why this tournament is not officially sanctioned by the sports commission or whatever.

THE SWORDSMAN is written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Michael Kennedy, who followed it with a much more entertaining Jalal Merhi/Billy Blanks buddy movie called TALONS OF THE EAGLE. Around this time he was also directing the filmed segments for The Kids in the Hall! I wonder if those kids gave him shit about his Lorenzo Lamas movie.

Three years later there was a sequel called GLADIATOR COP, a.k.a. GLADIATOR COP: THE SWORDSMAN II, which actually is available on the high tech format of DVD. It would be cool if GLADIATOR COP was a sequel to Ridley Scott’s GLADIATOR, just as SCANNER COP is a sequel to David Cronenberg’s SCANNERS, but if you study it carefully you can tell it’s more related to THE SWORDSMAN. Andrew is back, Julie is back, Leo is back, the captain is back, the sword is back, the gloomy, lugubrious style is back. I’m sure they figured you could watch it without knowing it was a sequel. It doesn’t really play like a sequel – it doesn’t take any pains to make anything different or to catch us up on what already happened, it just assumes we know or, more likely, don’t care.

This time the evil rich guy is Chris Kilos (George Touliatos, RED SCORPION 2, COSMOPOLIS), who apparently is in the first movie, maybe managing a fighter or something? Now he’s the director of the museum where Julie is the curator, and he turns the security system off so his goons can steal Alexander the Great’s sword and make his fighter Jodar (Christopher Lee Clements, JUNGLEGROUND) invincible so he can win bets on underground fights.

There seem to be a ton of these fight circuits in this town – part 1’s people who wear all black and have extreme fencing matches were only the tip of the iceberg. This time they make it more interesting by varying the locations (mostly parking garages, though) and involving lots of big dudes with executioner masks and novelty oversized weapons and shit. Also Kilos carries around a box with a metal-plated skull in it which in at least one case is hit with a hammer to be used as the bell.

Julie calls Andrew about the sword being stolen, and it’s so romantic. She’s wearing a baggy button up shirt with no pants. Andrew is shirtless, writing in his dream journal.


JULIE: It’s Julie. Somebody stole the sword last night. We should get together.

ANDREW: Wait for me out front. (Puts gum in mouth.)

JULIE: Thanks.

From the way she smiles I think they haven’t been together in a while and she’s excited at the prospect of getting back together with him, even if it’s just to sneak into the morgue and touch wounds to have psychic visions about guys sword fighting. But he’s cold to her again. After she goes on TV to offer a reward for the return of the sword he goes and pounds on her door at night, walks in and lectures her about it being “not wise,” sighs and says “No more publicity stunts, all right?”

“Fine,” she says.

“Good night.” And he just walks out! Was this worth driving over for?

He was right though, because while it was broadcast we saw Jodar watching a TV surrounded ritualistically in candles and touching the tip of his sword to her lips on the screen. Icky.

So Andrew is watching after Julie again, and having Leo fill in for him when he gets called to (off the books) touch some more blood and have more visions. He comes to her house with his luggage, says “If you need anything, uh, just give a holler,” as she goes up the stairs to go to bed. He locks the doors, turns off the lights… cut to him in his bikini underwear asleep next to her on the bed. But he’s having a past life nightmare again so the way it’s edited it doesn’t play like a “Ha ha, they ended up fucking” smash cut joke.

By the way, this is the rare action movie that takes place around Halloween time. But I only know that because of this shot. So it probly won’t become part of my regular October viewing regimen.

The story is kind of a rehash, but instead of Andrew entering the circuit to go undercover he doesn’t get involved in any fights until near the end when they force him to. Therefore there are long stretches where he’s not even in the movie. For example, there’s a whole thing where Kilos, calling himself “Mr. Renee,” picks up a woman (Heather Gillan as “Attractive Escort,” I think?) in his limo, lets her fondle the (wait a minute, clearly fake) money in his briefcase and gives her a bundle for a blowjob. Then he brings her to a parking garage to watch the fights, but when she realizes they’re death matches she tries to run away, gets chased by a henchman, stabs him with his own knife, all while Jodar wins a second death match and a mysterious high roller (James Hong, not long after THE SHADOW) watches curiously and says, “He’s not the owner of the sword.”

When the cops show up everybody flees, and Hong’s character calls Kilos in his limo to demand that Jodar face his fighter, Mongol (Garry Robbins, HUMONGOUS, TC 2000, WRONG TURN). Then the attractive escort tearfully tells the police all she knows about “Mr. Renee.”


Andrew was out of the movie for more than ten minutes as the shit went down, now he’s fucking on the floor.

The final round of matches take place in a warehouse with a chain link cage around a cement floor. A ninja fights a guy who doesn’t take off his sunglasses until well into the match. There’s a crude picture of a sword spray-painted on the ground and a metal panel that they open up to dump the dead bodies in. My favorite unexpected thing that happens here is they keep cutting to a character just credited as “muscle woman” (Astrid Falconi, a “T&A Cheerleader” in SCREWBALLS who by 1991 had become Canadian national heavyweight and overall bodybuilding champion) while Jodar fights a character credited as The Mask (not Jim Carrey – a guy named Rich Stadnyk).

I wondered why they kept showing her, and then it cuts straight from the match to her in a nightie riding Jodar and flexing for him.

I don’t want to alarm anybody, but it turns out James Hong’s character is actually the reincarnation of Parmenion, a real historical figure who was executed for revolting against Alexander the Great, and he’s trying to get Andrew the sword to turn him into Alexander for avengement purposes. You will no doubt be very surprised to learn that Andrew gets the call to come fight while he’s making out with Julie and at first it seems like he’s gonna ignore it but then he interrupts the lovin to pick up the phone and answer it by saying “Yeah.”

In the end, when Parmenion’s plan doesn’t work out (SPOILER), he says “Aaaaaaa, you have won again, Alexander. Perhaps we will meet again at another time. Farewell, my king,” and fades away like a ghost! I didn’t really see that coming. Pretty good sportsmanship, too.

I like how swaggery the movie is about fizzling out. Like the first one it just shows some flashes of Lamas as Alexander, as if that’s really deep, but also the guitar noodling over tense keyboards comes in, it dissolves to a glory shot of the sword, and then it re-uses the dramatic title logo animation from the opening credits. Good shit.

Unfortunately these movies are not as exciting as I’d hoped. This one is probly a little better than the first, due mainly to the more colorful opponents. The first one just has guys in black leotards and fencing masks, the sequel has guys like this:

So there are a few smiles. This time it’s directed by the editor of the first film, Nick Rotundo, who also cut HUMONGOUS, PROM NIGHT IIIII, BALANCE OF POWER and many others. His only other film as a director is the Daniel Bernhardt movie G-2, a.k.a. MORTAL CONQUEST (1999). Here’s the summary on IMDb:

“Deep in the mind of Steven Colin (Daniel Bernhardt) the secret of an ancient martial arts power lay dormant…In a former life, Colin wielded the forceful sword of Alexander the Great. Now in 2003, his enemies are back and are determined to seek the man who would be king and destroy him for all eternity.”

What in the– It even has James Hong playing the the reincarnation of Parmenion again, and Clements playing his fighter again! I don’t know if it’s a remake or if somebody told this guy that all movies are a variation on Alexander the Great’s sword possessing a guy or what. God damn it, do I have to watch that one too? I guess it looks a little more exciting than these two, a little more MORTAL KOMBATty. Sure, I’ll watch it, I guess. I just wish there was some other series of action movies that combined fantasy and swords with an urban action setting. Something of a higher quality. Something that lands in a higher–

Ah, fuck it. The truth is I don’t want to watch G2 right now. What I want to do is watch all of the HIGHLANDER movies and review them in great detail. So that’s what I’m gonna do. HIGHLANDERLAND – an outlawvern.com special presentation. Starting tomorrow. See you then.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 21st, 2019 at 10:08 am and is filed under Action, Fantasy/Swords, 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.

20 Responses to “The Swordsman / Gladiator Cop”

  1. Lorenzo’s reaction when I asked him about Gladiator Cop was great. “I wasn’t in it! I sued them!” Hahaha. Those shysters.

  2. this is an excellent review and highlander has been on my mind since avengers: endgame came out and no one talked about highlander: endgame :(

  3. CIA Code Name Alexa is ok. It’s one of those PM Entertainment joines that was filmed entirely during the day even though most of the film takes place at night so the movie is very very blue in color. Good times.

  4. Time Burst: The Final Alliance by the forgotten co-founder of Action Internatonal Pictures, Peter Yuval, will keep the forge warm while you visit Highlanderland.

  5. david – Wait – was his part all outtakes from the first one? And a guy wearing a mask? That would make sense.

  6. david j. moore

    May 21st, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Yes! Correct. Discussed it with him in GTD.

  7. Glad to see you making good use of your new vocab word, Vern. I’ll show this to my stepson next time he asks why he has to learn all those obscure words on his weekly spelling test worksheet.

  8. With John Wick Chapter 4 being announced for 2021, I wonder when Chad Stahelski’s Highlander remake actually will be made. Stahelski has talked about it in interviews for the JW Chapter 3 release, and he seemed to want to do it right, and make it a franchise, and he doesn’t seem to be a fan of the sequels and what they did with the series.

    I guess it’s good Vern that you do the Highlander series now, as we have no idea when the remake will be made.

  9. There’s some Freudian imagery going on with those covers, I feel.

  10. I should’ve known to look these up in The Good, the Tough and the Deadly before posting!

  11. Vern: I could swear there is at least one other straight-to-video fencing movie. I thought it was this one when I started reading the review, but I’d remember if it had Lorenzo Lamas in it…

    So I took a little research break, and yup, I was right. The one I’m thinking of is called RING OF STEEL, it came out in 1994, it’s the exact plot of BLOODFIST II except with swords, and Joe Don Baker gets top billing. So yeah, you’re probably gonna need to see that. Hit me up if you have any trouble tracking it down.

    Ring of Steel (1994) - IMDb

    Directed by David Frost. With Joe Don Baker, Carol Alt, Robert Chapin, Darlene Vogel. A champion fencer accidentally kills an opponent in a match. Disgraced, he is blackballed from the fencing community, until a mysterious stranger saves his life one night from a gang of muggers. He soon finds himself caught up in the world of underground illegal swordfights, where combatants fight to the death.

  12. I was so focused on tracking down this underground fencing movie that I didn’t even notice the announcement of HIGHLANDERLAND, the land of the Highlanderlanders. I stopped at part three like a normal person so this should prove very educational.

  13. Anyone remember that fencing movie BY THE SWORD with Eric Roberts and Mia Sara?

  14. Ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod

  15. Is that a yes, Fred?

  16. Majestyk – I actually did that one when I had a series of STEEL-related reviews:


  17. RING OF STEEL – “The world of underground illegal swordfights”. I would imagine that the cops would have little trouble breaking up this organization. They tend to notice guys on the subway with swords under their coats.

  18. HighlanderLand!


  19. Wasteland Listmaker

    June 4th, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    Nighlanders: The Recommendings (Films that might be considered slightly Sai-Fi? Started once you posted this review. I have fogotten my original plan that included Star Crash, but not Star Wars and yet Ewoks: The Battle for Endor counted since Brimley fought Lurch’s actual blade): 2019: After the Fall of New York, Adventures of Johnny Tao, Alien vs. Ninja, America 3000, Army of Darkness, Avengers Grimm, Beastmaster 2, Beowulf (1999), Big Trouble in Little China, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Blade, Black Knight, Blood: The Last Vampire, Bloodrayne, Captain Kronos (Brian Clemens time travel sequel ideas were probably reworked into Highlander 2), Cyborg, Deathsport, Death Trance, Doctor Mordrid, Doctor Strange, Dragon Fury, Dune Warriors, Eliminators (1986), Flash Gordon, Full Metal Yakuza, Ghosts of Mars, Ghost Warrior, G.I. Joe, G.I. Samurai, Gor, Guardians of the Galaxy, Heavy Metal, Hellbinders, Hellboy, I, Frankenstein, Iceman (2014), Immortal Combat, In the Name of the King 2, Interzone, John Carter, Kill Bill, Knights, Krull, Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Lawnmower Man 2, Legion, Les Visiteurs/Just Visiting, Masters of the Universe, Matthew Blackheart: Monster Smasher, Message From Space, Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn, Mirai Ninja/Cyber Ninja, Mom and Dad Save the World, Ninja III, Ninja Apocalypse, Omega Doom, Outlander, Priest, Princess of Mars, Robocop 3, Roller Blade, Shadow Fury, She (1982), Six String Samurai, Star Knight, Starchaser, Steel Dawn, Sword of Heaven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Time Barbarians, Time Burst, Timeline, The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, The Chronicles of Riddick, The Dungeonmaster, The House Where Evil Dwells, The Ice Pirates, The Iceman Cometh (1989), The Last Witchfinder, The Lords of Magick, The Machine Girl, The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey, The People That Time Forgot, The Princess Blade, The Witches Hammer, Thor, To The Ends Of Time, Tokyo Gore Police, Trancers 4/5, Transformers: The Last Knight, Underworld, Ultraviolet, Unidentified Flying Oddball, Vampire Assassin, Vampire Hunter (1995/2004), Versus (2000), Warlock, Wizards, Wolvesbayne, Yakuza Apocalypse, and Yor

  20. Son of Wasteland Listmaker

    September 2nd, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Nighlanders 2: The Mysted (I missed a few and made the mistake of starting a new search. Hopefully the more obscure titles might be of use to Vern or someone else): A Kid in (King Arthur’s Court + Aladdin’s Palace), A Young Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Alien Force, Apocalypse Rising (2018), Aragami, Arahan, Arthur’s Quest, Assassin’s Creed, Alita: Battle Angel, Babes with Blades, Berserker: Hell’s Warrior, Black Panther, Blade of the Immortal, Blazing Force, Blood (2009), Blue World Order, Book of Swords, Brazil, Bridge of Dragons, Buckaroo Banzai, Bulletproof Monk, Bunraku, Crimson Force, Dark Nemesis/The Dark Knight, Doomsday, Dragonfight (1990), Dragonworld: The Legend Continues, Dune, Elektra, Enchanted, Endgame, Enter the Warriors Gate, Eternal Fist/Fist of Steel, Expect No Mercy, Firepower (1993), Freejack, Future World: City of Mass Destruction/GR30k, Games of Survival, Garm Wars: The Last Druid, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Ionopsis, Hard to Be a God (1989 and 2010), Hirokin: The Last Samurai, House II: The Second Story, Josh Kirby… Time Warrior, Kids of the Round Table, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, Last Knights, Legend of Hell, Legion of Iron, Mad Warrior/Clash of the Warlords, Manborg, Merlin/October 32nd, Merlin: The Return, Moon Over Tao, Mortal Challenge, Mortal Kombat, Mystic Blade, Neon Maniacs, New Eden, Nightfall (1988 and 2000), No Escape, Noble Blade, O Gato de Botas Extraterrestre/The Extra-terrestrial Cat In Boots, Olympus Force: The Key, Omnia, Percy Jackson, Planet of the Apes (2001), Princess Warrior, Prisoners of the Lost Universe, Podzemelye vedm/The Witches Cave, Raw Force, Salvation (2007), Samourais, Samurai Commando Mission 1549, Serenity, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., Shogun Cop, Silver Hawk, Sin City, Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity, Spawn, Stan Lee’s Harpies, Star Raiders, Star Salmmer, Stardust, Stargate, Sucker Punch (2011), Sumuru, Surf Nazis Must Die, Surf Ninjas, Survivor (2012), Techno Warriors, Teen Knight/Medieval Park, Time Raiders, Time Trackers, The Baron Against the Demons/Star Troopers, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Excalibur Kid, The Forbidden Kingdom, The Heroic Trio, The High Crusade, The Kid Who Would Be King, The King of Fighters, The Last Sentinel, The Lost Empire (1984), The Lost Future, The Matrix, The Minion, The Monkey King (2001), The Mortal Instruments, The Mummy (1999), The Myth, The New Gladiators, The Phantom Empire (1986), The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, The Shadow, The Sisterhood, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2001 and 2010), The Sword of Alexander, The Thirst: Blood War, The Tiger Blade, The Twins Effect/ The Vampire Effect, The Wolverine, Treasure Planet, Turkish Star Wars/The Man Who Saved the World, Voyage of the Unicorn, Warlords of Atlantis/Warlords of the Deep, Warrioress, Warriors of Virtue, Waxwork II: Lost in Time, Wonder Woman, and You Only Live Twice

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>