American Samurai (1992)

Director: Sam Firstenberg
Starring:Mark Dacascos, David Bradley, Valerie TRapp, Rex Ryon, John Fujioka. USA. 1h 34m

This movie arrived during the height of the American cinematic takeover of the eastern martial arts. For many years Hong Kong cinema had released a number of powerful Kung Fu movies, winning over the hearts of millions if not billions of die-hard fans, with such prestigious names as the Shaw Brothers, Wu-Tang, and the Iconic labels such as Golden Harvest, a non-stop line of some of the best and most questionable martial arts movies have been released reaching cult classic limits.

Somehow during the late 80s early 90s the American market started the whole new basket of shenanigans, attempting to suggest that some of the the top of the range martial artists were in fact American born, initially this kicked off with a number of American ninja movies, and this delightful side step into the world of the Samurai features a number of faces that were normally seen as ninjas.

I guess there’s no harm in being prolific in both schools of Japanese martial arts? This could have been an attempt to be more authentic and true to form however American samurai ends up becoming nothing more than her kumite styled tournament movie, More than anything that cassara would have put his name to.

Bloodsport with Blades

Have a nice part, indeed American samurai is Bloodsport but with more blades, more noticeably it’s American Ninja weather very loosely written samurai code half of the same cast and all of the same choreography.

what starts like a scene from a modern Tarzan movie, An American family are travelling in a small passenger plane, when the craft start experiencing difficulties, everyone is killed in the crash apart from a young infant son, named Andrew Collins (Bradley). (An)Drew is adopted by a prominent samurai family and raised as their own, brought up on the strict code of the Samurai and that of Japanese honour and respect. The family’s actual son, played by Mark Dacascos, is often jealous of the young American boy who becomes the father’s favourite and out of sheer rage he joins a rival Yakuza gang dishonouring his heritage and is generally just a bad boy for life.

Not content with just pissing off the family, this crazy Yakuza then decides to force his estranged brother into a tournament, where the contestants fight to the death, the set of a fight to death/kumatie battle if nothing new for the material arts genre, in already includes big titles like Kickboxer and Bloodsport, however some of the the unique characters in American Ninja which are closer to a Mortal Kombat, a Conan the Barbarian styled brawler (who’s actually known an Conan), knife, spear and swords specialists along with a few fighters who specialise in animalistic styles and of course the two Samurai brothers. Each battle highlights the strengths and weaknesses of each fighting style and even though it’s a no brainer who’s going to win it’s the how that makes the journey so much more enjoyable.

The fighting sequences make the movie memorable, forget the subplot and the reporter working with the better behaved brother, love interests are sidelined for brute force battles and grateouts violence. There’s one other good guy who deserves a mention. A Texas Wrestler named Ed (Ryon) who’s southern charm makes him a big cuddly teddy bear more than a killer.

“Why couldn’t we just be brothers”

-Drew Collins

As an example of early 90’s mania for mystical martial arts, there’s a lot to really love about American Samurai if you don’t mind a touch of cheese in your romance. It certainly helps that the film is built on the already established Ninja films which help its chances of being nurtured by warmed up fans.

In a perfect world there would be more blood and even more fighting, a bigger more powerful soundtrack and tons of gore and some kind of training montage but even without the added bravado there’s a lot of badass fighting fury to keep any b movie fighting fan moist with delight.

Rating: 4/10

Related: American Ninja (1985) , Kickboxer (1989), Best of the Best (1989), AWOL/Lionheart, Bloodsport (1990).
Lists:Tournament Films Vol 1,
Spotlight:Mark Dacascos


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