American Samurai (1992) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Having been a big fan of director Sam Firstenberg and David Bradley’s previous collaboration, Cyborg Cop and Cyborg Solider, I was looking forward to this re-teaming of two titans from the early 1990’s heyday of chop-socky b-movies from Cannon films. Unfortunately this lame and ultimately extremely redundant picture is lacking in every department. Under-whelming grainy cinematography and choppy editing along with overwrought performances and poorly executed fight sequences quickly sink the film. Recommended only for the most indiscriminate of genre fans.

Bradley came into acclaim as the replacement for Michael Dudikoff in the American Ninja franchise. His rugged good looks and martial arts ability coupled with some decent acting chops made for an effective leading man in low-budget karate flicks shot on the cheap in South Africa. I have always considered Bradley the Tom Cruise of the genre if solely for his nasally delivery and mannered acting style. While most of his work has been in films of low reputation, each picture has displayed a level of entertainment or at least competency. I cannot say either of those things about American Samurai. A truly disastrous mess of a movie that fashions itself ‘Bloodsport with Blades’ but doesn’t have the style or professional proficiency of that earlier picture.

The story is about the rivalry between two brothers; one an orphaned American found as a baby and raised by a Japanese swordsman, the other a true blood son turned ‘Yakuza’ member. This is by far the most intriguing aspect of the script by John Corcoran. How this leads to a American reporter battling swordsmen from around the world in a Turkish arena is anyone’s guess. I watched the film from start to finish and many times throughout found myself confused where the story was going. At first I thought this was a homage to Kubrick or Goddard then I realized it was just a crappy editing job.

The big disappointment is the potentially explosive pairing of David Bradley and Mark Dacascos, two names that would make a combined 63 films in the genre. This match-up between two physically gifted martial artists like this is such a let down, instead of a properly choreographed hand to hand fight the filmmakers stage the scene with clunky weaponry that neither star seems comfortable handling. It’s a shame the two men would never appear together on screen again, the missed opportunity to do something great with this level of talent is just one of many unforgivable problems with American Samurai.

Director: Sam Firstenberg
Stars: David Bradley, Mark Dacascos, Valarie Trapp

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