I sincerely hope that you will read this review instead of simply looking at the star rating and assuming that Samurai Cop is a mediocre and forgettable action movie from the 80s, which is what a 2.5 stars out of 5 implies. Before you write Samurai Cop off completely, let me explain myself: Samurai Cop is as far as you can get from mediocre or forgettable.
Chances are, if you're the right kind of bad movie fan this glorious golden turd is practically tailor-made for, you will buy this Blu-Ray, watch it over and over again, cherish it, and maybe even give it to your grandchildren on your deathbed as the one thing in life that gave you true joy.
On the other hand, if you don't have a near-perverse fascination with terrible cinema, the way I do for some sick reason, and require your movies to be competently written, directed, lit, acted, edited and catered, then for the love of god, stay as far away as possible.
Samurai Cop is one of those rare "so bad it's good" movies that gets a zero on quality and a five on pure entertainment value, hence the 2.5 star rating, since I had to come up with some kind of a compromise. Movies this ineptly made yet unintentionally hilarious and fascinating from the first frame to the last are incredibly rare. In fact, there's usually one "so bad it's good" masterpiece for each genre. If The Room covers drama, Troll 2 takes care of horror, Plan 9 From Outer Space is still the crowning king of crappy science fiction, then Samurai Cop is the magnum opus of bad action movies.
It all begins with Amir Shervan, an Iranian schlockmeister whose dream of coming to America to make Lethal Weapon-style big-budget action movies resulted in three terrible low-budget attempts at the genre. Samurai Cop is the middle effort of those three, and the most entertainingly bad one by a long shot.
Just like Tommy Wiseau did with The Room, Shervan took the base elements of the genre he was working in without fully understanding the culture and mannerisms of the country he was depicting, the choices and motivations behind the way the films he was ripping off were structured, or the fact that one needs a budget larger than twelve dollars to pull off such an endeavor. All of these miscalculations result in laughably stilted dialogue (Just like Wiseau, Shervan ordered his actors to deliver the often grammatically incorrect lines exactly the way they were written), character motivations that don't make a lick of sense, awkwardly directed and performed action and sex scenes, the list goes on and on.
The titular hero of Samurai Cop is the blandly named Joe Marshall (Matt Hannon), a "badass" cop who studied the way of the samurai in Japan for years. You wouldn't know this by listening to him, since he sounds like an ignorant racist redneck anytime he talks about anything Asian. Also, he doesn't do anything remotely samurai-like during pretty much the entire movie. Joe and his partner Frank Washington (Mark Frazer), who the screenplay loves reminding us is black every five minutes or so via horribly racist jokes, go after the Yakuza. Along the way, a nurse is not impressed by the size of Joe's schlong (You can watch that gem of a scene here). That's pretty much it as far as a halfway sensible description of the "plot" is concerned.
Every scene in Samurai Cop is chock full of mistakes and baffling decisions that extra nitpicky fans of bad movies should have a field day exploring. Many scenes were obviously put together with footage shot at separate locations. Color correction and continuity are non-existent. Perhaps the most amusing of these blunders is the fact that Matt Hannon is obviously wearing a store-bought wig during a third of the movie.
Apparently, Hannon cut his hair after the production and Shervan called him back for reshoots, which miraculously amounted to a third of the final cut's running time. The best appearances of the wig occur when intercut between shots with Hannon's natural hair. During a fight scene, the wig comes off and for some reason, Shervan decided that was the take that should have ended up in the finished film.
Compared to previous releases of Samurai Cop on DVD, this Blu-Ray is akin to a crisp 70mm presentation of Lawrence of Arabia. You have to keep in mind that this was never an attractive-looking movie to begin with, which is kind of the point. While the previous DVD releases were drowning in scratches and dirt while also using the wrong aspect ratio of 4:3, the 1080p Blu-Ray transfer of Samurai Cop restores the film to its 16:9 aspect ratio and cleans up a lot of the scratches. However, staying loyal to the film's fan base, they don't correct the terribly mismatched colors.
It was a good idea to hold onto the film's 2.0 Stereo presentation instead of attempting a surround remix. Restoring the tinny-sounding audio and the terribly mixed cheesy music and sfx would have been akin to color correcting the movie. The DTS-HD 2.0 presentation stays loyal to the way Samurai Cop is supposed to sound, for better or worse (Mostly for worse).
Remembrances with Mark Hannon and Mark Frazer: In this 7-minute piece, the stars of Samurai Cop give some amusing details on the production.
Matt Hannon Interview by Red Letter Media: The good folks at Red Letter Media, primarily known for amusing web-based film review shows like Half in the Bag and Best of the Worst, sit down with Hannon for a 20-minute interview. This is the best feature on the Blu-Ray as Hannon engages in a relaxed and open conversation with Mike and Jay from Red Letter Media.
Matt Hannon Interview: Hannon mostly goes over the same points as the Red Letter Media interview. Pick that one instead.
Rob Schrab Interview: I don't really know who this guy is, but he talks about his experience watching this cult classic on the big screen. Pretty useless feature.
Music Score Excerpts: Audio only excerpts from the movie's horribly cheesy score.
Samurai Cop 2 Photo Shoot: This brief and forgettable video on the photo shoot for a proposed sequel can also be found on the project's Kickstarter page.
Audio Commentary with Matt Hannon: Hannon openly discusses the many problems with the film's production in this entertaining commentary.
Audio Commentary with Mark Frazer: Frazer is less enthusiastic but equally informative. He seems more embarrassed by his involvement in the film, as he reminds us that he's a dramatic actor and is not into action movies.
Audio Commentary by 80s Picture House: The members of the popular British podcast basically spend 90 minutes making fun of the film in an annoying and obvious way. A complete waste of time.
We also get a Trailer and a Stills Gallery.
Samurai Cop is only suitable for a niche audience who enjoy memorizing stupendously bad movies. This Blu-Ray release goes above and beyond to satisfy the hardcore fans of this cult classic.
Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com