Shitty Movie Sundays: Samurai Cop

Samurai Cop, the 1991 stinker from writer/director/producer/editor Amir Shervan, has more shitty filmmaking moments than are possible to recount in any review of reasonable length. Here’s a sample:

  • Fight scenes and car chases have sped up footage to simulate quickness. It’s not subtle, either — approaching Benny Hill Show levels of speed.
  • A great deal of dialogue was recorded in post. That’s not unusual. But Shervan did many of the voices himself, dubbing the voices of stars and bit players, alike. That is unusual.
  • There are a lot of cops in this flick. Many of them wear uniforms. Some of those uniforms don’t have badges.
  • Star Mathew Karedas cut his glorious locks after principal shooting wrapped, but was called back months later for reshoots. Shervan put a ridiculous wig on his head with little regard to whether or not it looked right. It does not look right. In at least one scene, it briefly popped off of Karedas’s head.

There’s more. Oh, there’s so much more. Samurai Cop is among the most incompetent films I’ve ever seen. Just about everything in it is inept to an extreme measure. Lest Shervan take one-hundred percent of the blame, most of the cast couldn’t act for shit, and the few people with experience gave awful performances. The only thing Shervan and company seemed to get right was the film’s exposure. Take a bow, cinematographer Peter Palian. Your photography was correctly exposed. Most of the time.

I need to be clearer about how amateurish this film is. There are some shitty movies that are legendary for their shittiness. Birdemic: Shock and Terror. The Room. Manos: The Hands of Fate. Plan 9 from Outer Space. This movie approaches that level of futility. The major Samurai Copdifference from those dreadful, awful, terrible films, is that Samurai Cop is actually watchable.


It’s true! It is possible to sit through Samurai Cop without being bored. I’m not going to credit Shervan with good pacing, along the lines of Die Hard or something similar. But he did avoid many of the dead spots that make the worst of the worst movies hard to sit through. Another way of putting it is that pacing was the thing he was least bad at.

Karedas stars as Joe Marshall, a detective from the San Diego Police who has been brought up to Los Angeles to help with an investigation into a local Yakuza gang. Why would the LAPD need help from a San Diego cop? Well, they’re going after Japanese gangsters, and down in San Diego, Marshall is known as ‘Samurai Cop.’ That’s just about all the reasoning Shervan gave us.

Marshall is partnered with Frank Washington (Mark Frazer), and the two go about busting heads all over Los Angeles. Their targets are the Katana gang. They are led by the very shouty Fujiyama (Cranston Komuro). Just about every line that wasn’t dubbed he delivered in a massive bellow.

Fujiyama is the head of the gang, but his subordinates get most of the screen time. They are Gerald Okamura as, fittingly, Okamura, and Robert Z’Dar as Yamashita. Yamashita is the baddest of the baddies, and the one who makes it all the way to the final fight. Because of course there’s a final fight. There’s always a final fight in a flick like this.

By ‘flick like this’, I don’t mean shitty. This is shitty, sure, but it’s also a buddy cop flick. More than anything, it’s a Lethal Weapon ripoff. A veteran black detective is paired with a longhaired white detective to go shoot bad guys. And longhaired detective kicks ass, too. It’s a tale of two movies, really. Samurai Cop even has the pissed off police captain.

One shouldn’t need more insight into the plot. Just picture Lethal Weapon with almost all (remember, the exposure was mostly right) skill removed, and one will be able to imagine the shitty movie that is Samurai Cop. Now that one has done that, one will not have to watch Samurai Cop.

This is a stunningly bad film. But unlike so many others, its ineptness is hilarious. Every scene was a total struggle for all involved and I got much joy out of that. Because of this, Samurai Cop shoots up the Watchability Index far more than it would have otherwise deserved. This film could have the highest variance between objective quality and watchability of any film in the Index. It doesn’t break into the top half (goodness, no), but it is more watchable than The Haunting in Connecticut 2, whose spot it takes over.

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