Viking Night: Samurai Cop
By Bruce Hall
August 16, 2017
Samurai Cop has earned, through no small amount of hard work, a hallowed spot on the Viking Night list of Worst Things Ever. And I’ll remind you - it’s not necessary to be a movie to make that list. Bubonic plague, bell bottom jeans, Lima beans...I cast a wide berth. I have seen Samurai Cop on a lot of “so good it’s bad lists,” but don’t be taken in. It’s not good. It’s bad. So very, very bad.
I couldn’t have imagined I’d have such a hard time making it through a film that wasn’t a documentary about genocide, a brain surgeon’s video diary, or made by the Wachowskis. But I made it, nonetheless, so that I could chronicle my travails and deliver them to you. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the soul-crushing afternoon when I got the bright idea to watch Samurai Cop.
Consider that the highlight of this review.
The “story” (I’m not even sure I can legally call it that) revolves around rival Los Angeles gangs, locked in an epic battle for supremacy of the city’s cocaine trade (but no cocaine appears in this film at any time). The gangs are ostensibly Japanese and Chinese, but there don’t seem to have been enough Asian actors to go around. Most of the people on both sides are random not-Asian people. The Japanese gang are called the Katana, because that is a Japanese word. The Chinese gang has no name, because all five of them are murdered by the Japanese about four minutes into the film.
The head of the Katana is a man named Fujiyama, because that’s another Japanese word.
Fujiyama’s aide Yamashita is played by big-headed B-movie legend Robert Z’Dar, who is easily the best actor in the film. That’s relative of course, but with the Chinese out of the way, the Katana are free to run wild over the city. We are told this entirely through exposition; all of it happens off screen. No doubt this too was for budget reasons, but considering what passes for “action” in this movie, it’s a blessing. If your favorite thing is watching out-of-shape extras throw bad stage punches over poorly crafted '80s synth music, then your ship has come in, my friend.
To combat this menace (the Japanese, not the horrible fight choreography), the LAPD brings in Detective Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon). He is known as “The Samurai” because something-something Japan, and...that’s pretty much it. The movie is called “Samurai Cop,” and the lead character is described as being an expert martial artist, marksman, and swordsman. He is fluent in at least two languages. He’s hung like a banana squash (his claim, not mine). We are reminded at every turn to forget the definition of the word “badass,” because the Samurai Cop is going to redefine it. And even those unfamiliar with the craft of storytelling know that if you’re going to tell us about all the cool stuff your hero can do, you’d better eventually follow through.