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Review American Samurai (1992): Almost a live action version of Soulcalibur!

genre: action, martial arts

Even for Canon Films this clearly is a very low budget production where there is little beautiful scenery and most is shot inside. Plot wise they sort of give an excuse of why that is. But from all the Sam Firstenberg films I have seen this definitely is the weakest.

If I had to guess they were trying to start up a new franchise in the same vein as American Ninja but instead of featuring ninja's this would be about samurai and other warriors. And as you might have guessed it an American samurai. Baby David Bradley was chillin and cruisin with his parents in their plane and then out of the blue a malfunction ocurrs and the plane crashes. We aren't shown how or why baby David Bradley has survived but he did. His Japanese foster father found him, raised him as if he were his own son and trained him the way of the samurai. Foster brother Mark Dacascos is not happy with that at all. In fact he is very angry and furious all the time. One reason given is the fact that his father has taken in this gaijin like it's the worst thing ever. But it's also jealousy because this gaijin is a better samurai than he is. Funny thing about grown up David Bradley is that he speaks English fluently. Remember he was a baby who never had spoken English before raised by a Japanese father. He technically should speak Japanese as well. Any way it's one of those plot points you just have to go along with otherwise you will get a major headache. Foster brother Marc is outraged when Bradley is given the family sword instead of him. Foster father apparently thought he didn't deserve it. He was right. His son has joined the yakuza and has now become really evil. Mark's approach to the role might seem questionable and a little too over the top. But it does seem to fit the character a little. Besides this was very early in his career and he obviously lacked the experience to do better. Any way some years later Bradley magically becomes an ace reporter in The States a country he doesn't even know. Did he even have papers or a birth certificate? How did foster father know his real name? Again just accept these plot points to avoid migraine. Foster brother sends thugs to steal the sword and from that moment on Bradley tries to recover it. On the hunt he is forced by foster brother to partake in a martial arts tournament where blades and other melee weapons are allowed. If Bradley defeats all the warriors including his foster brother he will get the sword back. 

This sounds far more compelling than it actually is. The way events unfold are relatively slow and it's after 45 minutes or so that the film picks up a little. The concept of the tournament is interesting and there are enough skilled fighters who deliver on the spectacle. But it can't shake off the low budget vibe. Still it definitely is the highlight of the film especially since limbs get cut off which you get to see in full glory. BTW the tournament reminds me a lot of the Soulcalibur videogames since it's focused on weapon based fighting. This easily could have been an adaptation of that game. 

Of course Bradley wins and gets his sword. I do think that we don't get to see enough of him doing his thing. But when he does he delivers. It's a real shame that he didn't become as big as Michael Dudikoff. American Samurai is a good example of how a low budget can ruin potential. It is worth watching if you love martial arts and action in general. But for everything else you will be disappointed. 

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