Movie Review: Samurai Cop

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A New York cop is called out to Los Angeles to stop a Japanese organised crime wave.

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Amir Shervan, 1991

A surge in Yakuza crime in Los Angeles leads the LAPD to call in the so-called “Samurai Cop”: the long-haired, womanising (read: gross), Japanese-speaking (ha), martial arts expert Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon). He chases the Yakuza bosses on a trail of blood and destruction through LA (or a couple of buildings and at least one road set, at least). The mob bosses always seem to be one step ahead, though, and soon Joe and his wise-cracking partner Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) are in trouble with their bosses. The fight turns personal when Joe starts spending time with beautiful restaurant owner and unwilling Yakuza money launderer Jennifer (Jannis Farley). With the Yakuza out for his blood, Joe must battle their best samurai: the totally, 100% Japanese, no, really, we swear, Yamashita (Robert Z’Dar).

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This poster has literally nothing to do with the movie.

It has been requested that we review this movie for the podcast. The only other way it would ever have crossed my path is if it had been covered on How Did This Get Made?, a podcast for which it seems tailor-made. Not so much a B-movie as a Z-movie, Samurai Cop might be one of the worst things ever committed to film. It entire ten-minute opening sequence is a car chase that takes place mostly over one stretch of road. Not one to waste time on silly things like an opening sequence, Amir Shervan throws us right into the middle of a conversation. As the first scene. Like, there are credits, and then a Yakuza gangster is chatting casually about murdering up some people. This is the first in a series of wildly racist, inaccurate scenes which conflate the Yakuza with Samurai culture in the most nonsensical of ways. It also introduces us to the late, great Robert Z’Dar as the “samurai” Yamashita. It would be difficult for him to look less Japanese, but he’s yellow facing all over the place as he hacks and slashes up anyone who displeases his bosses and has sex with the creatively named Female Henchwoman (played by the equally creatively named Cameron. No last name. This is that kind of movie).

The racism only gets worse when we’re introduced to black wise-cracking cop Frank Washington, who feels like he’s stepped out of the Police Academy movies, except even they don’t stoop so low as to have the characters react to their friends’ antics directly to the camera. Equally racist is his partner Joe Marshall, who appears to be hopelessly inept at everything except growing hair. He is a terrible cop with zero charisma and all the linguistic skills of a sea cucumber. He stumbles over every Japanese name he’s asked to say in the movie, and never speaks a word of Japanese in spite of the fact that we’re reassured repeatedly that he “speaks fluent Japanese”. In fight scenes, it appears as though he’s never held a sword or a gun or even thrown a punch before. He DOES have the greatest tiny black swimsuit ever, though. He has casual sex with his co-worker Peggy and less casual sex with horribly irritating love interest Jennifer. In fact, every single female character in this movie gets naked, and three of the four of them are tortured and/or murdered. It is easily the most misogynistic movie I’ve seen this year, perhaps ever. Not content with the racism and sexism, Samurai Cop also has the most homophobic stereotype of a Latino character I think I’ve ever seen. It’s this streak of pure nastiness that kept me from being able to really enjoy the terribadness of the movie. Instead of so-bad-it’s-fun, most of Samurai Cop was, to me, merely so bad it was unwatchable.

Samurai Cop on IMDb

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