Youtube Film Club: Karate Cop (1991)

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While this is an exciting title for a movie, if the first part is meant to describe the thing the “cop” does most often, I would have to suggest an alternate and more accurate title, “Almost Gets Captured Cop”. This is a requested review – friend of ISCFC Len Kabasinski (@killerwolffilms) suggested we do this and “No Retreat, No Surrender 4” – and I’m glad he did. I would watch vanity project post-apocalyptic kung-fu movies every day if I could.

After dipping our toe in the waters of Jalal Merhi’s output, we’ve moved on to Ronald Marchini, who was very narrowly beaten by Chuck Norris in a big martial arts tournament in 1964. From there, Norris has gone on to be a far-right-wing lunatic; while Marchini wrote, directed, produced and starred in a few movies from 1986-1995, after which he disappeared from the movie business completely, hopefully to a career he was more suited for.

Marchini, at least, plays to his strengths. In this movie – the sequel to “Omega Cop”, which is proving trickier to track down – he’s John Travis, a man who really likes his hat, which reads “Special Police”, which he wears even when “undercover”. Every other cop has been killed, due to this being a post-apocalyptic situation, but he’s…actually, we first meet him in a ruined building with his dog, looking like he’s hiding. He rescues the beautiful Rachel from a gang of guys in generic far-future garb (ripped clothes, patches of “armour” all over the place, layer of filth) and gets involved in her plan to rescue a bunch of kids called “Freebies” from the villains of the piece, Lincoln and his “Scavs”.

She has access to a teleportation machine, which was handily built by the Government in the corner of an empty room, but needs a crystal to power it, so John has to go and get one, which involves almost getting captured then fighting his way out *a lot*. The Scavs could use the machines to expand their drug empire, apparently, so they can’t find out. You know the score. The Scavs are fantastic, as you’d expect, wildly overacting to a man. Snaker is the secondary boss and wants to make people pay, for what is never quite elaborated, and Lincoln is amazing, all wild hair and odd mannerisms (his female assistant / lover / erotic dancer is brilliant too).

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There are all sorts of curious choices made by “Karate Cop”. As well as the lead character being sort of incompetent and really bad at post-death one-liners, weirdest of all is the self-destruct mechanism for the teleporters. It’s represented by one of those marquee text things, along with a vaguely computer-sounding voice, and it’s a bit…sarcastic? I’m not sure I want my imminent death reported on by a computer that’s trying to suppress a snigger.

Far too highly billed for his on-screen time is David Carradine, in the middle of his “I will appear in literally anything” years. Seriously, look at his 1980s and 90s and see how many of the IMDB entries you recognise. He runs a country & western bar, which just goes to show that even the apocalypse isn’t enough to kill the genre. I got excited at one point because one of the Freebies looked like a young Eli Roth (I like spotting those tiny roles), but I was sadly mistaken.

The fighting in this is great, though, with Marchini really being a top-level martial artist. There’s nothing too flashy, just good strong stuff that looks like it hurts. There’s a whole cage-fighting subplot running through the Scav scenes, too, so you’re never given the chance to get too bored; the only weak link is Marchini’s acting. He really tries, bless him, but given how much he’s on screen and how he never seems terribly natural (except when he’s talking to his dog), it can be pretty tough going at times. If you were wondering, he’s nowhere near as bad as recent ISCFC review subject Jalal Merhi, though.

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I think this is a strong choice for inclusion on your bad movie night playlist. Never too boring, lots of crazy over-acting (the Scavs) and anti-acting (Marchini), and a decent look to it all, given it was apparently the job of the extras to help build the set – the first guy to die in this movie has told his story on IMDB, and it’s pretty interesting.

Rating: thumbs up

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9 thoughts on “Youtube Film Club: Karate Cop (1991)

  1. well respected and loved CA theatre actor DW Landingham (with white spiked hair in this film…main villain) died a couple years ago….he’s really good in this and OMEGA COP

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