Karate Cop (1991)

A lynch mob of grunting, out-of-shape dudes chase two ladies clad in strategically revealing clothing. One swings a chain. The other wields a gun with no bullets. One is definitely not wearing a bra. The other is possibly not wearing a bra. It is the near-distant, post-apocalyptic future, and central California looks worse than usual. The mob closes in.

Luckily a guy in a sleeveless shirt comes to the rescue. He’s wearing a hat that says “Special Police.” It’s bit like a kid wearing a hall monitor badge—a completely ineffectual symbol that instills a false sense of power and deep sense of self-righteousness that makes you want to stuff firecrackers in a toilet. The guy takes down the mob with nothing more than a staff. It’s martial arts expert Ron Marchini! You may know him as the guy who was narrowly defeated by Chuck Norris during the finals of the 1964 Takayuki Kubota’s All-Stars Tournament in Los Angeles. You also may know him as the guy who kind of looks like Chuck Norris if you wear someone else’s glasses. You may also know him as the guy who exclusively stars in movies with the words “karate,” “cop,” “warrior,” “death,” or “ninja” in the title.

The name is Travis, John Travis. He used to be a cop, but in these dire post-apocalyptic times, all the cops are dead and gone. So now he’s just a Special Policeman. A pudgy kingpin named Lincoln, who is a haircut away from Guy Fieri, has squeezed himself into a pair of jeggings and has taken over the streets with the help of his band of unwashed foot soldiers, which includes a deformed face named Snaker. Oddly enough, Snaker does not have a snake, but Lincoln’s finger-sucking girlfriend does. Lincoln needs a crystal to operate a teleporter, but only one person knows where to find it, and her name is Rachel. Fact: In 1991, every girl in California was named Rachel or Amy. Rachel is a survivalist with a generous heart—she has taken in all the orphans, wiped away their tears and snot, and protected them from Lincoln’s far-reaching, meaty hands. The kids are called Freebies, which is weird because if you offered me an orphan for free, I most certainly would not take you up on the offer. No thanks. But let me know if you have free kittens.

Rachel needs to steal the crystal from some cloaked post-apocalyptic druids, keep it safe from Lincoln’s gang, and use it to operate her own teleporter and transport the Freebies to safety. But this is a mission she can’t do, for some reason. She convinces a reluctant John Travis to help. She arms him with a motorcycle and a Big Hunk candy bar. Yes. Big Hunk. It’s a bar of sticky nougat with peanuts. In the grand kingdom of candies, Big Hunk is above Smarties and Necco wafers, but below Bit-o-Honey and Mary Janes. It’s a candy your dad would eat only because he wants to say that he is, in fact, a big hunk. Basically this candy is just one big dad joke.

Karate Cop, the follow-up to Omega Cop, is right up there with Samurai Cop, Hollywood Cop, Vampire Cop, Psycho Cop, and Maniac Cop. It’s solid, bone-headed, fist-pumping, slightly head-scratching action from start to finish. The editing is aggressive and there’s a lot of camera angles, so you can really see face kicks in the most optimum angle, and then again from a different optimum angle. Karate Cop is one part Dad-action, à la Rock House, and two parts Mad Max rip-off. There’s even a Family Dollar version of Master Blaster fighting in a Family Dollar version of the Thunderdome. The fight choreography is accomplished, and we’d expect nothing less from a guy who narrowly lost to Chuck Norris in 1964. There are some classic moves in there, like a guy who’s thrown down the bar through some beer bottles. There are explosions, bullets galore, an extended dance sequence with a skank and her snake, and a very satisfying scene where people beat up a car. If there’s one thing this movie teaches us, it’s that is actually kind of hard to beat up a car. Like Dragon Fury, Karate Cop has a strong saving-the-children element that is supposed to give the film some gravitas, but doesn’t. Because we don’t care about saving children. We care about seeing David Carradine come out of nowhere and serve Marchini rabbit stew.

This movie features a dog named Mick (played by a dog named Mick) and fantastic end credit song that goes uncredited:

“No matter what the future holds,
There’ll be a story to be told,
Forever I’ll shine the light that will burn forever.”


From the Archives