Samurai Cop is one of the most gloriously terrible films I have ever witnessed. The movie is a cheese lover’s Holy Grail, Fountain of Youth and Lost City of Gold all in the same sweet spot. A lost Italian production, (a commentary track by Joe Bob Briggs provides a fascinating amount of trivia about the film, and is just as hilarious and entertaining as the movie itself) the movie looks made to cash in on the post-Lethal Weapon buddy cop craze, given its production date of 1991. I suppose the producer’s were looking for a quick-buck, straight-to-VHS release, as the biggest star in the film is Robert Z’Dar, known pretty much for portraying the titular character of several Maniac Cop films. That and having an enormous face. The DVD art for the copy I have actually much more recalls that film than the one for which it was created. It features a uniformed cop (never seen in Samurai Cop) drawing a katana (rarely seen in Samurai Cop) in the shadows (also never seen in Samurai Cop). Save for the sword, the poster is Maniac Cop all over again.
Joe, the titular Samurai Cop, has the rare and coveted two-career fail, as he rarely does anything either samurai-like or cop-like. He spends more time hitting on women than anything else onscreen, and presumably all off-camera time goes toward maintaining his perfect mane of hair. In one such scene, possibly the most bafflingly scripted of its kind, the infamous “Horny Nurse” scene made popular on YouTube, Joe hits on the aforementioned horny nurse. What makes the scene so special is that it actually breaks the comic-relief-in-a-bad-movie rule, which says that the intentional comedy is the only thing in it that isn‘t funny. The scene is clearly played for laughs, and badly, but so badly that it actually comes around and becomes funny again. I think this is the first and only film to actually break this rule.
Matt Hannon plays Joe, in his only film credit. With comic timing and dramatic flair like his it isn’t hard to see why. Joe’s detective work is as suspect if not more so, than his sexual bantering talent. His plan to catch crooks is a) show up late to the drug bust, b) kill most of the participants, c) threaten their boss publicly, and d) kill more of them when they retaliate, which for reasons of chiefly bullshit samurai code, they will. He also refuses to call for any backup, ever, which makes sense for a guy with a Samurai Detective shield. You don’t get those for feathering your hair or poor innuendo skills. You get them for chopping up perps.
His partner, Frank, while little better at policing, does at least carry handcuffs and occasionally attempt to apprehend a suspect. And doesn’t go in for all that samurai mumbo jumbo either. Which saves Joe’s life at least twice when his counterparts stop taking their own codes quite so seriously. Also, Frank has seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, apparently, so he knows the most expedient way to deal with a sword wielding goon. Frank is also an invaluable companion when striking out with horny nurses, as evidenced by his classic reaction shot cut-ins. His laugh makes Barney Rubble’s seem natural in comparison and his jokes about burning his ass are cutting edge 1974 material. Still, Frank looks pretty cool when held up next to his partner.
The script is utterly devoid of logic. No one does anything that makes a lick of sense. The film degenerates into a series of fight scenes rather quickly and there’s a long, long section of the movie where the bad guys chase after the address of the Samurai Cop. Among their tactics are two low-level goons breaking into Frank’s place while he showers in his Speedos and threatening to remove his “gift,” his “black gift” if he refuses to reveal the secret location of the Fortress of Slutitude. If I’ve ever heard a guy quite so baldly say he was afraid of another man’s penile stature, it was this guy. Nice poker face, Racist Goon. Frank kills them both and preserves his black gift. Naturally the bad guys keep their big guns for the main target, helicopter pilot and backup bedmate of Joe, Peggy, played by Melissa Moore. Robert Z’Dar makes a personal appearance in her interrogation, which is good since she kicks the asses of his goons without a second thought. And, without warning, the previously goofy-to-the-nth-degree nature of this movie takes a nasty turn. The bad men interrupted her cooking a pan of grease for dinner and proceed to torture her merciless by pouring burning fat on her until she reveals the address of the Samurai Lair. She is never heard from or shown any concern again in the film.
Joe, meanwhile, has been enacting one of the movie’s half dozen or so Skinemax level sex scenes. It’s worth noting that while two or three of these feature Joe, who looks like he would be at home in the videos Wally the Gay Dad watches in Brain Candy, another two feature Z’Dar and 50 year old martial arts film stalwart Gerald Okamura. These are not love scene material gentlemen, to put it mildly. And yet Frank is never given the opportunity to test out his black gift. More’s the pity.
The costumes are worth noting, too. Frank gets his detective gear basically right with a blazer and oxford shirt, but Joe never wears anything but jeans, unless he’s seen in his banana hammock on the beach or in bed. And the security guard watching the burn victim wears what are vaguely matching trousers and a shirt, not really close to a uniform, and a gun belt. Not one with places for additional police equipment, just a gun belt.
Samurai Cop is one of those films that holds a special rating. It’s definitely a one star affair, and that’s what I give it, but it’s beyond five stars in entertainment value. It ranks with Troll 2 and House of the Dead in terms of rising above it’s awfulness. 1 star