Wednesday, 10 February 2016

samurai cop 2: deadly vengeance

i watched samurai cop with some uni friends a few years ago. it was after a night out and we were pissed and bored and desperate to be entertained. samurai cop is certainly entertaining. it's the best type of bad movie because everyone involved is taking it so seriously. that's what makes it work. i don't remember much about the film, to be honest, but i remember we all had a really great time that night. there's something beautiful about bonding with friends over a good bad film. so when i heard there was going to be a screening of samurai cop 2 at the prince charles cinema and that not only did it feature the same guy, mathew karedas, as the lead but also that tommy wiseau plays a bad guy in the movie i knew had to see it.

my concern with samurai cop 2 was that it would be too knowing and there's an element of that, certainly - mark frazer (who plays samurai cop's partner, frank) even winks at the camera a couple of times - but there is something else going on too. you could say that samurai cop 2 doesn't work. the joke is that it exists at all, but faced with watching 90 minutes of something that's almost trying too hard to be terrible that joke stops being funny rather quickly. however, there is something more interesting going on beneath the surface, because ultimately samurai cop 2 is trying to work in an entirely different space to its predecessor.

the original samurai cop works because it doesn't work. as karedas said in his introductory q and a last night, they wanted to make lethal weapon. the fact that they didn't have the budget or talent to make lethal weapon but that they tried anyway it was makes it so enjoyable. with samurai cop 2, there is ambition here. there are some incredible designs, particularly in the costumes and there's an energy to it that really works at times. this is a film that feels like it's trying to be something more than a parody of a bad 90s movie. it feels like it's striving to be some kind of arthouse study of the cheap hollywood knock-off. it forces the audience to ask, 'why the fuck am i watching this?' which leads to the question 'why do we watch movies at all?'. it's like the birdman of the vhs era. there is an intention here to make something interesting and complex and transcendent, but in having such ambitious goals it fails completely and instead becomes this kind of loud, colourful mess.

samurai cop 2 isn't attempt to make a quality action movie that failed, it's an attempt to make an existential arthouse movie and that's the part that fails and that's also what makes it work. this is why casting tommy wiseau is such a genius move on paper - the room was an attempt at making a serious art film that fails spectacularly, so it makes perfect sense to case wiseau in an existential art film about bad 90s knock-off action movies. except it fails, because they case tommy wiseau, who proceeds to do whatever the fuck he wants in every scene he's in. then bai ling turns up looking like she stepped out of a william gibson novel, says something weird and shoots a big, phallic gun. cut to mathew karedas swinging a sword around on a beach, then mark frazer wandering around looking confused and repeat the above until nothing makes sense anymore. there are so many ideas onscreen that it just doesn't work; it never holds together and at best it feels like some kind of hallucinatory fever dream in which bad 90s knock-off action movies are somehow the most important thing in the world. samurai cop 2 fails, but it fails with style and that's all i could ever ask for from a sequel to samurai cop.

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