2015 / Director. Gregory Hatanaka.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
SAMURAI COP was among the wave of martial arts movies during the early-nineties and despite being one the worst of them all it had no pretensions. It revelled in its own awfulness and rightfully earned itself a loyal cult following over the twenty-four years that followed. It was a film that certainly didn't deserve a sequel and yet here we are...
SAMURAI COP 2: DEADLY VENGEANCE is the long-awaited follow-up that sees Matt Hannon & Mark Frazer reprising their roles and kicking ass as though their last exploits were only yesterday. The film is the result of a dedicated crow-funding campaign and the devotion of director Gregory Hatanaka. Fans owe him a lot of gratitude because the film is an outstanding combination of nostalgia, action, satire and self-awareness.
Frazer's detective character is still punching the clock and finds himself investigating a string of Yukuza assassinations. He tracks down his old partner, Harron, who has been off the grid for two decades and the two of them team up to take down a ruthless organisation of cliched samurai killers.
Honestly? The storyline is irrelevant. SAMURAI COP 2 is an intentionally contrived throwback film that recreates the aesthetic of the original with a full comprehension of what made that film so bad, as well as an understanding of precisely what fans loved about it. Having Hannon and Frazer reprise their roles solidifies the intended sarcasm and lends the movie a constant hilarity.
Harron and Frazer are fantastic. In a case of life imitating art Harron had fallen off the grid prior to the production. He had changed his name and left the industry and it was only when he was tracked down and discovered at the last minute that the script was re-written for his return. He steps back into the game as though he never left. He commands the screen and delivers a hysterical performance that makes it hard to imagine the original script without him. Frazer is great too. He had also stepped away from the camera many years ago and seeing the two of them kick ass again is so fucking good.
The script is smart and the production values are fantastic. It is a much more controlled and artistic film than the original with strong textures and well handled cinematography. In fact it couldn't have come at a better time with creatives such as Astron-6 already laying the way for this particular brand of self-referential nostalgia. Gregory Hatanaka has proven to be a savvy filmmaker with a clear vision and comprehension of the genre. His handling of the action and use of night serves as a clever contrast to the first film, which was shot entirely in daylight with underwhelming action sequences.
Enjoying SAMURAI COP 2 doesn't require your knowledge of the original, but I would stress that it cannot be truly appreciated without seeing it. This is a movie packed with throw-back references, as well as countless nuances that serve as a wink to the audience, and newcomers wont recognise the elements at the very heart of the film. Track down the original. Watch it and then enjoy this wonderful sequel that deserves an even bigger cult status!