There’s this great scene in the movie The Trust (2016) starring Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood. If you’ve seen the film, you might already know exactly the scene I’m talking about. Nicolas Cage’s mustachioed character, a crooked cop heisting a bank vault, grabs Elijah Wood, his crooked-cop cohort, and slams him up against the door of the bank vault, screaming “OPEN IT. OPENITOPENITOPENITOPENITOPENITOPENITOPENIT.”
I’m under the impression the The Trust was supposed to be a gritty heist film packed with tense moments of not knowing who is trying to screw whom. And, for the most part, it is! And, it has one of the coolest ending scenes I’ve seen in a long time, so props to directors Alex and Benjamin Brewer (and Elijah Wood, who is like Nicolas Cage’s Bizarro Superman in that Wood has the ability to turn out excellent performances in every movie he’s in, even if I do have a tendency to confuse him with Daniel Radcliffe). However, enthusiasts of bad film are well-acquainted with Cage’s ability to turn even the most gravitas-laden movie into hot, delightful, train-wreck of a mess, which is why we love him so much. But why? Why do Cage’s tantrums tantalize us so? Why am I breaking out my bib every time I see his name top-billed on a movie poster? I have a hunch.
Nicholas Cage is not yet self-aware.
Unlike Skynet, Cage has not become sentient to his actions. Every sweaty, mouthy, scenery-gobbling display is executed completely free of irony. Cage isn’t trying to be Cage. He is simply Cage. The Cage chose him; he did not choose the Cage. As soon as Cage becomes too aware of his own inherent Cage-y-ness, the Cage will become corrupted, and, therefore, no longer the Cage. You get the idea.
So it goes for bad movies. As soon as a bad movie becomes aware of its badness, it stops being bad and becomes just boring. And, while lack of production values and even terribly-written dialogue can be forgiven to some degree (because, KUDOS FOR MAKING A THING THAT DIDN’T EXIST BEFORE. Seriously), a boring movie is simply unforgivable.
Samurai Cop (1991) and its squeak-uel, Samurai Cop 2 (2015), might be self-aware of its terribleness, but if it is, it doesn’t lead on. Every scene, every poorly directed scene in Samurai Cop feels intentional. Every flat line reading felt like it was the absolute very best the actor could deliver. Every half-assed fight scene felt like the entire production crew was slapping high-fives while the scenes were being shot, congratulating themselves on what a super badass totally awesome bitchin’ samurai cop movie this is turning out to be! “Bully for us, good sirs,” they assuredly cried, boasting of their good fortune! Every shockingly misogynistic moment seemed like the director truly believed that all those high-cut French bikini underwear (the most barf-worthy of underwear cuts outside of the g-string/thong, BTW) and all them silicone titties were 100% as sexy as it gets. Every time the main character, Joe Marshall (played by Mathew Karedas), donned a wig to cover the fact that he cut all of his hair after he believed all of this scenes were finished shooting, it feels like we’re supposed to buy that it’s Karedas’ real hair. Even the movie poster is a gem. What’s depicted has ABSOLUTELY ZERO THINGS TO DO WITH ANYTHING IN THE MOVIE. God, I love it when that happens:
Surely by the time the two main characters in the first Samurai Cop, Karedas and Mark Frazer (Marshall’s partner Frank Washington), got around to making the second one 25 years later, everyone was well aware that Samurai Cop The First was a “cult classic,” meaning that sequel director Gregory Hatanaka knew, too. After all, they enlisted the services of Tommy Wiseau, the ultimate coup in the wide world of terrible movies, to star as one the sequel’s many, many, many, many, many villains (there are so many characters in SC2, villainous and otherwise, I stopped keeping track after about 45 minutes). You know what you’re getting into with Wiseau. All involved with SC2 had to been aware of what they were making, right down to actor Bai Ling, who had the misfortune of starring in the worst episode of LOST, and that includes the maligned series finale.
And yet, with all of its CGI blood and airplane smoke bombs and Karedas’ striking resemblance to the unholy lovechild of Alice Cooper and The Cryptkeeper, SC2 seems blissfully unencumbered by the awareness that it’s a tightly-coiled, steaming pile of turds, and that right there is exactly what I love about it.
SyFy used to be the prime purveyors of craptacular bad movies, but by the time Sharknado 2 rolled around, the SyFy channel milieu became self-aware, and everyone stopped trying. Or, more accurately, they started trying to suck, and, when it comes to bad movies, there is no try.