January 5, 2013

Netflix'ns: Ghost Warrior

Do you remember that blast from the past Encino Man? You know, the movie where a caveman, played by Brendan Fraser, is thawed out on modern day California to hang out with none other than Pauly Shore? Of course you do. Everybody loved that slice of comic brilliance, that intelligent take on the fish out of water tale. Well, maybe not. Now, what if I told you that years earlier the same idea was used but played straight and instead of a caveman you get a samurai? Sounds great, right?

The movie is called Ghost Warrior, although I have seen some places listed as Swordkiller. Unfortunately, the concept of an ancient samurai warrior unleashed on the gang infested streets of 1980's Los Angeles is not nearly as exciting as it should be. Still, I found plenty to enjoy about this take on the familiar fish out of water tale.

Ghost Warrior opens up some 400 years in the past. A rogue samurai is facing off with an evil band of warriors who have kidnapped the swordsman's wife (girlfriend?). As the battle rages on, the samurai, Yoshimitsu, watches his wife killed right before his eyes. Before he is able strike the finishing blow on his enemy, Yoshimitsu is shot with an arrow and falls off a cliff into frozen waters.

Time shifts to the present of 1986, a couple of Japanese skiers stumble upon the man frozen in the ice. The frozen man from the past is flown to a facility on California. Instead of performing the requested autopsy, they decide to attempt to revive him. It is a success and Japanese expert Chris Wells (Janet Julian of Humongous) is put in charge of acclimating him.

Things go fine until a nurse decides he wants to steal Yoshi's swords to sell them. Needless to say this does not end well for the nurse. The samurai ends up taking to the streets where he faces off with some thugs accosting an elderly man, thus becoming a target of the gang and the police. Of course, you cannot forget the doctor who woke him up wants him back and Chris wants to help him. As we scream towards the climax, we start to see a similar situation develop as we did at the beginning and we have come full circle.

You know, the idea of a samurai roaming the streets of LA in the 1980's is one that could have been downright awesome. Walking around with that fish out of water daze, swinging his sword on any unfortunate soul to cross his path while a desperate doctor/love interest pursues him and authorities look to put him down. Sadly, it just wasn't that awesome.

Fortunately, Ghost Warrior does have some things going for it. I mean, it is kind of enjoyable. I liked the low budget nature, there is a sort of a do it yourself charm. More than that, there is Hiroshi Fujioka as Yoshimitsu. He turns in a wonderful performance, deadly serious and convincing. He has a look of stern curiosity, an aura of authenticity. Simply put, he makes a great samurai and has a great head of hair. Finally, I have to mention the appearance of WASP on a television set, it is a great little sequence and it garnered the and a special thanks in the credits!

The movie was directed by J. Larry Carroll, his only directorial credit (although he did write the horror movie Tourist Trap). It was written by Tim Curnen whose only other credit was the screenplay for Forbidden World.

Mildly Recommended.

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