Samurai Cop (1991)

“I want his head on this piano!”

Justin’s rating: All of the hair from this movie was donated to Locks of Love

Justin’s review: The joy of being a fan of cult movies is walking a path much less traveled than by normal movie-going audiences. It’s a path that’s weird and twisty and full of cinema that delights in unexpected ways — including being so terribly made that it’s clear that no human being was part of the decision-making process. You can take your Michael Bay Transformers and your mass-produced James Bond stories over to your safe and comfortable world; I’ll be out here in the wild woods snacking on such forbidden treats like Samurai Cop.

Released in 1991 to a largely uncaring world, Samurai Cop enjoyed a recent cult resurgence due to how entertainingly bad this whole movie is. Seriously, you’ll be half-convinced that this was made as some sort of action film parody at points, because the alternative explanation — that the director, actors, screenwriters, editors, sound effects engineers, and camera operators had never seen nor made a movie before — is too terrible to conceive. It’s so thoroughly bad that it’s impossible to look away, because you never know how this film is going to top itself in its delusion.

As far as I can figure, Samurai Cop is trying its hardest to be a discount Lethal Weapon and failing miserably. Its discount Mel Gibson, Joe the Samurai Cop, has more hair than an Italian’s shower drain, and just as well-coiffed. He’s also got an expression that shouts “I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m terrified but I’m also a ladies’ man so I’m going to keep moving forward” and a complete lack of timing for delivery. It’s a good thing that he’s paired with Frank, our discount Danny Glover, who is equally expressionless when he’s not mugging directly at the camera:

So apparently there’s this fearsome Katana Gang that’s terrorizing Los Angeles (terror: not shown), and so the LAPD brings up Joe the Samurai Cop on the theory that you fight katanas with samurais. Or something. Joe’s not a samurai, mind you, but he is OK accepting any residuals if that word is used. Joe and Frank bumble around the Katana Gang in a loose approximation of policework while the bad guys throw themselves onto bullets and blades every chance they get.

You’ll at no point be convinced that either the cops or the gang are competent, so it’s good they have each other to keep occupied. The gang’s leader, a Japanese guy with a horrid mullet, has a penchant for putting severed heads on his piano, while Joe often blows off his job to wear mankinis and sleep with every female that’s been cast in this film. Scenes don’t so much progress as they lurch forward, giving us non sequiturs and head-scratching decisions at every turn.

If you’re the type of person that relishes a so-bad-it’s-good experience, Samurai Cop has that balance in spades. That said, I can’t say I enjoyed it quite as much as its reputation promised. At times the bad guys get so brutal toward the cops (in particular one home invasion that’s so cringy to watch) and there’s so many random and off-putting sex scenes that it kept docking points from its favor. It’s also not the most awfully done movie I’ve ever seen, so it doesn’t score as high in that regard either.

At least it holds a lot of potential for a party movie, if you want to MST3K this sucker down with a few friends on a Saturday afternoon. Just be prepared to see a lot of scenes that will haunt your mind for years after.

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