Taekwondo champ Julian Lee has been appearing in action movies since 1990, but his earliest work readily available in North America is 1992's MY SAMURAI. This one fell into my lap by accident (my boyfriend happened to have an unopened copy on his shelf), and overall, I'm glad I saw it. What threatens to be a boring indie exercise turns into an engaging adventure with a lot of fight scenes. It doesn't fully realize its potential, but the raw fun makes for a feature worth digging your VCR out for.
The story: When a young boy (John Kallo) witnesses an underworld crime, his babysitter (Lynne Hart) and he are targeted for assassination and must rely on the protection of a martial arts instructor (Lee).
The movie starts off umpromisingly. It's really hurting for good actors, with lead villain Mako and absentee father Terry O'Quinn having relatively few scenes despite their important roles. I totally buy Julian Lee as the martial arts teacher he is, but drama seems alien to him; he makes Philip Rhee look like an Oscar nominee. Young John Kallo is, somehow, in even greater trouble. They stumble through the movie's opening third, gumming their lines and failing to impress. Then, to my surprise and delight, the screenplay wakes up. At first it's just little things that you notice – realistic touches about what three people on the run have to contend with, like how to find new clothes and needing to sleep in a cramped space – but eventually, it's like the film remembers that it can do whatever it pleases and has its three stars fighting a glam-inspired martial arts gang and buddying up with a minister played by friggin' Bubba Smith. The final 15 minutes or so lose some of that gusto when the filmmakers try to shoehorn in a whole scenario about Kallo and his dad, but overall, this is a pretty energized movie that's unlikely to bore its target audience.
There are some disappointing missteps throughout, beyond the aforementioned pacing issues. Lynne Hart – one of only two prominent female performers in here – shows a lot of promise but is somewhat wasted by playing a character whose sole arc in this otherwise bombastic film is about her love life. There seems to be some untold backstory regarding the villain, with the filmmakers trying to draw a parallel between two sets of fathers and sons, but this is left until the film's final minutes and is thus rendered confusing and pointless. Julian Lee has an embarrassing philosophical scene wherein he claims he never got rich teaching the martial arts because he didn't -want- to be rich; if all martial arts instructors who've struggled and sacrificed in pursuit of their passion watched this scene at once, their combined laughter might cause earthquakes. Lastly, take note of the movie's inappropriate title. Didn't the studio realize that neither Julian Lee nor the character he plays are Japanese?
There's no shortage of fight scenes, here – about a dozen individual brawls – and I'm happy to say that they balance out some of the film's flaws. The action doesn't start out promisingly, with some strikes clearly not making contact and a combatant dying by falling out of a five-foot window, but it picks up dutifully. Julian Lee provides his choreographers all the physical talent they need, and they exploit it by keeping the matches grounded and intimate – lots of close-quarters street fighting. There's some flashiness (the glam gang contains several acrobatic tricksters), and this makes for a satisfying adrenaline package. Disappointingly, Lee's on screen nemesis – fellow martial arts master Christoph Clark – is portrayed as so powerful as to negate any potentially cool matches between them. Clark beats the heck out of Lee, forcing the final showdown to conclude anticlimactically.
MY SAMURAI has the right attitude to be a kickboxing flick of the NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER (1986) variety, but not quite the concentration to maintain its enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the mixture of unusual touches and inspired moments make it worth owning for mildly patient fight fans.
A boy, Peter McCrea, witnesses a gangland murder. He turns to his martial arts teacher, Young Park, to help defend him from the gangsters. On the run from both the gang and the police, Peter learns self-defense and the courage to face his fears. —Joe Grim
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
October 04, 2021 at 04:50 PM