THE UPSIDE with Shane Whitbread: SAMURAI COP – It’s missing soul, man

Samurai Cop is one of the many examples of movie making incompetence circling the drain of the internet and getting limited screenings at what remains of the grind house theater world.  It has a huge and constantly-samuraicopgrowing fan base, as well as a sequel showing around the country.  If you’re in Ottawa, the sequel is showing at the Mayfair this week (the original screened last Friday); if not check your local listings and all that shit.
The issue is that it’s not all that great.  Yes it has every z-grade movie trope going on you can think of.  Terrible acting (according to interviews, the cast started fucking with the director to see what they could get away with), pointless stunts, an awful wig, high-speed chases that were obviously filmed at 10 mph, tons of gratuitous nudity,and a lot of chode shots.  What it is missing is soul, man.

Samurai Cop, at its core, is just a low-budget “Lethal Weapon” cash-in; another in the long line of ’80s direct to home video action flicks.  Yes, it is hilarious in how inept it is and the dialog is fucking amazingly terrible.  I get that.  What it lacks is the soul that makes a shitty b-movie transcend into being a fantastic b-movie.  The cast is entirely in on the joke.  They know they are making shit and this betrays the lasting impact of the film.  What could have been awesome in a  “what the fuck” sort of sense is somewhat ruined by the actors deadpanning it, or just doing ludicrous hand gestures just to see what they can get by on the director.  It’s cute, but it’s also kinda insulting and self-serving.  It’s “getting themselves over”* instead of putting over the movie.

See, the best b-movies have absolutely no idea they are schlock.  No one is really in on the joke or even has an idea there is a joke, because they are wrapped up in the idea of making a movie, working to the best of their limited abilities to make something people will actually enjoy.  There is no sense of overpowering ego or opinion; it is truly a group of people who believe in what samurai-cop-dvd-coverthey are doing.  This conviction elevates the film from typical direct to video trash to this amazing and endearing force of cinema.  You begin to care and get invested in the insanity on the screen because THEY CARE.  Samurai Cop falls well short of this; it’s fun, but has no lasting qualities beyond “holy shit this is stupid”.

If you’re looking to kill a few hours and several thousand brain cells you can do far worse than “Samurai Cop”.  It has enough laughs on both the scripting and technical level to keep it going and make it a passably enjoyable time.  It doesn’t really get boring at any point, which is more than you can say about a lot of the movies in the world it inhabits; which usually have spikes of brilliance and insanity followed by soul-crushing boredom.  It never gets dull, it just never elevates itself to the next level of B-movie glory.  It left me entertained, but somewhat underwhelmed, and ultimately questioning some of the hype surrounding it.

SIDE NOTE:  Maybe if you go into this film blind you’ll get more out of it.  I’d known of its existence for years because of the incredibly high praise it receives in the cult world.  I also watched the re-cut trailer, which gives away a lot of the best scenes.  So yeah, avoid youtube and head straight for the movie.  I kinda wish I had.

* “Getting yourself over” is a bastardized pro-wrestling term.  It’s basically when one professional wrestler is clearly trying to making himself stand out or draw all the attention at the expense of the match, the other workers, and sometimes in really extreme cases the company itself.