Stream This? is a feature devoted to exploring and reviewing some of the lesser known and often-times weirder films that can be found on various streaming services. Today, Matt Morrison examines the 2017 film Revenge of the Samurai Cop.
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was a glut of action movies appropriating various elements of Japanese culture. You couldn’t swing a katana without hitting a cheesy ninja movie. Hither came Samurai Cop – a 1991 movie that would be the final film of Iranian auteur Amir Shervan. By most accounts, Shervan was a filmmaker of the Ed Wood school, who saw no reason to bother filming additional takes or worry about little details like whether or not his leading man, written as a great swordsman, actually had any sword training. The film failed to find a distributor in the United States, was released direct to video in Europe and was promptly forgotten for over a decade, until one clip from it, dubbed The Horny Nurse scene, mysteriously was posted on YouTube in 2007.
The original reels for Samurai Cop were later found in a film vault by an employee of Cinema Epoch founder Gregory Hatanaka. Realizing that he had cult film gold on his hands, Hatanaka rereleased the film on DVD in 2013 and promptly began work on a sequel, since Amir Shervan had died in 2006. By this time, an honest cult had built up around the original film and the star of the film, actor Matt Hannon, who had also reportedly died in obscurity.
However, much like Samurai Cop itself , Matt Hannon returned from the dead, so to speak, revealing himself to be a retired actor named Mathew Karedas, who had been unaware of the fandom that had developed around the movie. After a video of Karedas discussing the movie was posted on-line by his daughter, Hatanaka reached out to Karedas and persuaded him to recreate his most infamous role, along with as much of the original cast as they could get together. Thus was born Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance.
So what does this have to do with Revenge of the Samurai Cop?
The short version is that Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance was full of too much gratuitous sex, nudity and violence for the liking of Amazon and the movie was pulled from Amazon Prime as a result. Since Gregory Hatanaka is the sort of producer for whom artistic pride is less important than a steady paycheck, he recut the film to remove some of the violence, cover up some of the nudity and make the movie suitable for Amazon Prime’s prudish, if low, standards. This resulted in black circles, LED lightning and convenient wisps of icy wind obscuring the dramatic assets of the porn stars making up half the cast.
Let’s not mince words. This is not the sort of film where one has any expectation of quality. This is the sort of movie enjoyed unironically by 14 year old boys who want to see arms being cut off and bare-naked girls. I have no objection to this sort of movie, but I bring this up to make an important distinction and why Revenge of the Samurai Cop is, like the Sharknado franchise, not worth watching if you’re an aficionado of the cinéma terrible looking for something to riff upon.
The original Samurai Cop had a sort of cheesy charm about it. You could tell that Amir Shervan was honestly trying to tell a story. It was an incredibly stupid story and it was told badly. Yet there was an honest attempt at making a movie. By contrast, Gregory Hatanaka doesn’t seem to have any higher motivation as a writer or director other than checking the boxes on a list of resources guaranteed to attract cult film fanatics and people with the mentality of 14 year old boys, who enjoy watching naked sword-fighting, courtesy of a random dream sequence.
That being said, Revenge of the Samurai Cop does succeed in being what it is; an intentionally awful movie for the sort of people who enjoy that sort of thing. It is American cheese; processed and without nutritional value, but it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. I will give it that much. In this day and age, if you go into a movie where Tommy Wiseau plays the scion of a Yakuza family and Joe Estevez is the perpetually annoyed police captain (who is only there to threaten to take away the heroes’ badges because they’re loose cannons who have gone too far), you know good and god damned well what you are in for.
The plot, such as it is, picks up from where the original Samurai Cop ended 25 years earlier, with the titular samurai cop Joe Marshall (Mathew Karedas) living in seclusion after his wife, Jennifer, was murdered by an assassin posing as a teenager in need. Joe is dragged into action by his estranged partner Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) after it becomes apparent that their old enemies in the Katana Clan have returned and an all-out war with two other rival clans, the Shinjuku and the Ginza, is about to ensue. Along the way, Joe meets a woman named Milena (Kayden Kross) who is the spitting image of his dead wife and comes into conflict with a variety of assassins, including Linton Kitano (Tommy Wiseau) – the new head of the Shinjuku Clan, who seeks to avenge the death of his beloved mother.
The plot, however, is incidental to the action, most of which is incidental to itself. None of Wiseau’s scenes seem to connect up until the very end of the movie when his character confronts Joe Marshall. There’s also a series of nightmare scenes which don’t really serve much purpose beyond showing that Joe is kinda messed up. Even the scenes in which characters from the original movie appear in quick cameos seem randomly included and are offered up with a knowing wink to the audience. Heck, there’s even a nod to the rumors of Mathew Karedas’ death, with a uniformed cop outright telling him at one point that they all thought he was dead.
Personally, I prefer my cheese to be organic. Yet I can’t deny that Gregory Hatanaka set out to do what he wanted with Revenge of the Samurai Cop. It is an inoffensive edit of an unnecessary sequel, which is visually interesting even if it is confusing. It isn’t good. It isn’t bad. It simply is. Fans of the original will probably like it, but all but the most hard-core of Bij-viewers can safely skip it.
Revenge of the Samurai Cop is currently streamable through Amazon Prime.