Today I watched Gregory Hatanaka’s Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance (2015)
When one sets out to make a sequel to a movie that caught on for being so bad it’s good, or when intentionally trying to make a movie with that appeal, the film maker walks a very fine line. The most endearing works of lovably terrible film tend to be ones with a certain naive energy, a belief in themselves despite all evidence to the contrary. There is not a shred of irony in Plan 9 From Outer Space or The Room, they exist as honest failures that actually end up revealing a lot about their creators. So I am very glad to see that while Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance tries to tap into the ironic nostalgia for it’s awfully spectacular predecessor, it finds wholly new ways to be bad. The plot for instance, is a hilarious mess; it starts with Joe Frazer reprising his role as Frank Washington and investigating a developing gang war between the resurfacing Katana gang and the Shibuya gang of yakuza. this seems sensible enough but by the end I was totally lost in this bizarre acid trip of a movie. For one it is pretty obvious that they began working on this under the assumption that the previous film’s lead, Matt Hannon, had died, he hadn’t and they shoehorned him into the script in some very bizarre ways. On the sadder note, Robert Z’Dar and his chin were scheduled to reprise his role in the film but he unfortunately died before filming and perhaps his scenes would have explained the villains better, but probably not.
This film is a whirlwind of random violence, trippy nonsense, faux Winding Refn visuals, sleazy nudity, and Asian stereotyping. And right there I think is where this movie makes it’s master stroke, a theme of Asian stereotypes in western media. Why would an Asian American writer director feature it so prominently if not to shine a spotlight on the absurdity of it? The oversexed Asian girls played by white women, the oversimplification of samurai philosophy, and nonsense wisdom spewing elders are all on display here, but pushed to such extremes as to be parody. At the same time Hatanaka obviously has a love of the underground cinema that often uses these tropes, the original Samurai Cop which is so lovingly refrenced throughout this film for example, or old school American Ninja style flicks. There is a connection then, between this and The Neon Demon, moreso than just a love of stylish lighting, in both films the directors address an issue of great interest to them and address both the positives and negatives of the issue. Though in this case one could say that Hatanaka is reclaiming these images in some way.
Of course to watch this movie you will need to have a tolerance for some really deep nonsense and scenery chewing. Surprisingly the two leads from the original, Matt Hannon and Joe Frazer, actually apply themselves to the material well and deliver solid enough performances that I would love to see them get more acting gigs. But then there is the matter of Bai Ling and Tommy Wiseau, yes the star of The Room himself plays a major antagonist here and it is something to behold. Bai Ling for her part seems to take Wiseau’s presence as a challenge to try and chew even more scenery and be even more unintelligible than he, she fails but does so admirably to say the least. In conclusion Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance was way more interesting and thought provoking than it has any right being and is thus probably worth a watch. 5/5