CANNON MOVIE 2: American Samurai (1992)

Seriously, of all the Cannon movies I’ve watched in the second Cannon month, this has to be my favorite. It takes the Enter the Dragon template and then goes absolutely insane with it. All hail Sam Firstenberg, the director of not just this, but Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, American Ninja, Avenging Force and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, all of which are worth your time.

Actually, this movie takes a lot of inspiration from American Ninja. Andrew Collins (David Bradley, who took over in the American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt) is the only survivor of a plane crash in the Japanese mountains, which is how he gets raised by samurai master Tatsuya Sanga (John Fujiyoka, who fulfills the same role as Shinyuki in American Ninja). Along with Tatsuya’s son Kenjiro (Mark Dacascos, who beyond being the American Chairman on Iron Chef is amazing in everything he has done), he studies the fighting skills of the samurai and surpasses his new stepbrother. He’s given the family sword and that leads Kenjiro to renounce the samurai and joins the Yakuza and swears that one day, he will destroy Andrew.

Ten years later, Andrew is a journalist on the trail of opium smuggling in Turkey. I mean, it becomes personal when someone breaks in and steals his sword, then goons shoot him in the stomach necessitating him reaching into his own belly to pull out the bullet! — but when he gets there, they kidnap Janet Ward (Valarie Trapp) his photographer — and girlfriend, I guess, but he always negs on her so their romance is one of my least favorite things in this — which means Andrew must enter a weapons-based martial-arts tournament that is totally Kumite, but has weapons in it, which makes it so much better. Of course, the champion ends up being Kenjiro and that means that the once brothers must battle one another.

What takes this movie to the levels of insanity that I demand is that the other fighters in this seem like they came from other eras of time, like Eternal Champions or even WMAC Masters, but this is filled with tons of gore. I mean, there’s a guy named Conan who pretty much fights like Conan (Rocky McDonald, who has done stunts in tons of movies like Dead-End Drive-In all the way up to Mad Max: Fury Road), the singlet-wearing spear-using McKinney (Ron Vreeken), a big dumb American dude with a knife who is totally not Donald Gibb, a pirate, a Viking and so much more. Even better, people are killed and one scene and totally come back in the next, making me think that yes, this is very much a video game world.

This is the only movie that John Corcoran ever wrote — the Pittsburgh native was an editor of several magazines (Black Belt, Professional Karate, Inside Kung Fu, KICK Illustrated, Martial Arts ProfessionalThe Fighter International and Martial Arts Success), was the first-ever PKA events coordinator and co-founded the STAR System World Kickboxing Ratings with Paul Maslak — but man, he did it. Please check this one out. More people need to be talking about this.

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