Review: 'Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance'

By: Heather Seebach

The journey leading up to Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance has been an exciting one for me. As a huge fan of the original film, I nearly shat myself when the world discovered star Matt Hannon (aka: Mat Karedas) was still alive after having been presumed dead for years. When he joined the already-in-progress sequel, I happily contributed to the Kickstarter campaign and started the Keep It Warm Challenge (including my own embarrassing re-enactment of the nurse scene). I also got to be among the first folks to interview the newly-resurrected Samurai Cop himself and later had lunch with him in Los Angeles (and rode in the original car!). So frankly, how this movie turned out never really mattered to me so much as the fact it happened at all! 

With that intro and humble-brag out of the way, it's time to talk Deadly Vengeance. Being the follow-up to a perfect piece of awful filmmaking like Samurai Cop, this movie was faced with an impossible predicament: try to replicate that lightening in a bottle (you cannot) or play it straight. The final product falls somewhere in between. It's twenty-five years after the events of the original. Joe Marshall (Karedas) has been in hiding, living a life of non-violence since he suffered a personal tragedy. When the Katana gang (from the first film) starts stirring trouble again, he is pulled out of retirement and partners with cop Frank Washington (Mark Frazer) once more.

 The only chance this film ever had was to shoot for something entirely new and do it in earnest. To that end, it does try but ultimately still falls short. Too many forced references to the old film become a hindrance, including one painfully bad reference to my favorite line from the original (hint: it involves a gift). Those moments are there for fans like me but they mostly made me cringe. Other gags are a little more subtle, at least. Then there are repeat references to things I did not understand at all (kale chips??). This movie is all over the place, with a plot that makes the original seem coherent. I'm fairly certain the filmmakers were high for at least 70% of the production. It half-commits to a futuristic theme with spaceship-like headquarters and killer robo-balls - I kind of wish the whole thing had just been Samurai Cop in Space.

For those of you who were worried about Tommy Wiseau joining the cast, well, the infamous actor/director/writer almost seems normal in this company. I thought his brand of weirdness would stick out like a sore thumb but now I see he could've landed the role even if he were nobody. I enjoyed his scenes much more than expected. Meanwhile, Bai Ling is just as much an unintelligible nut-job as Wiseau, and the film is full of many other eccentric "actors." There are also so many waxy plastic surgery-altered faces you might suspect Madame Tussaud was the casting director! It's a strange movie full of strange people.

This sequel walks a delicate line between the intentional and incidental, like some of the actors who are so bad I wonder if they tried to be. This does not apply to Karedas and Frazer in the lead roles, who approach their parts with sincerity which is absolutely key. The exception is one or two forced moments of Frazer mugging to the camera. You just can't replicate those Frank Washington reaction shots, don't even try. There is also a lot of cheapness to the production - CG blood, green screens, etc - but it's hard to say whether it's a purposeful attempt to make it look tacky like its predecessor, or a genuine lack of budget. I really hope it's the latter!

I give this sequel credit for trying to make a very different film from the original. It's bad in its own way, which may very well be what the filmmakers were hoping for. Its use of music is actually quite good, and seeing some of the original cast again is a real treat for fans. There is also an assortment of other b-movie actors that hardcore cult film fans may recognize. I would still watch a third installment because I enjoy this campy world of the Samurai Cop and his many enemies. I only wish Robert Z'Dar were still with us to partake (R.I.P.). With repeat viewings, I hope this one grows on me. It has moments of batshit crazy fun but not in the same way as the original film. I really wanted Deadly Vengeance to "keep it warm" but instead it left me cold.

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