Bullet Points: Ghost Warrior
I have seen a lot of action movies in my time. That means I’ve seen a lot of vigilantes seeking justice. I’ve seen a lot of underground fights. I’ve seen dozens of Die Hard scenarios play out in every possible venue imaginable. I’ve seen numerous kickboxing tournaments in Las Vegas. I’ve seen quite a few one man armies and even more elite military units. I’ve seen tons of maverick cops and dozens of cops with buddies. But I can honestly say I have only seen one movie like Ghost Warrior.
- Frozen: Our story begins in 1552 in the country of Japan, a great samurai warrior named Yoshimitsu (Hiroshi Fujioka) is looking to settle down with his beautiful young wife and live happily ever after. Unfortunately some of Yoshi’s fellow samurai don’t take too kindly to this decision and they murder Yoshi’s wife. When Yoshi tries to fight this murderous band of samurai on his own, the odds catch up with him and he is stabbed, then falls off a cliff and into an icy river presumably joining his wife in the after world. Fast forward to Japan in 1984 and Yoshi’s body is found in an ice cave. The 400 year old body is sent to a lab in Los Angeles to have an autopsy performed. I’m not certain why this autopsy could not be performed in Japan, my assumption is that Godzilla destroyed all the facilities that could perform such a task in Japan so the work had to be outsourced.
- Re-Animator: Dr. Alan Richards is the doctor assigned to perform this autopsy in his Los Angeles based facility. But Richards and his team get the bright idea to try to resurrect the perfectly preserved samurai. Before the procedure, Richards brings “Oriental History” expert Chris Welles on board to give them a better understanding of the man they are attempting to re-animate and to assist integrating Yoshi into the modern world if the experiment is successful. SPOILER ALERT! Yoshi is reanimated and Chris begins working with Yoshi, who is quarantined in a room to protect him from the extreme culture shock he would experience going outside into 1984 Los Angeles. During one of her conversations with Dr. Richards about Yoshi, Chris mentions how valuable Yoshi’s samurai sword is… this gets the attention of one of the orderlies working at the lab.
- Disorderlies: This orderly proves he is not the sharpest ginsu knife in the drawer when he unlocks the door and attempts to steal the priceless samurai sword from Yoshi as Yoshi was sleeping. The orderly does get the sword from Yoshi, but not in the way he had intended. So now we have a dead orderly, an unlocked door, a samurai warrior roaming the Los Angeles area and the LAPD investigating the death of the thieving orderly.
- Welcome to the Jungle: During his travels, Yoshi happens upon an elderly man named Willie Walsh. Willie is about to be mugged by four street punks but fortunately for him it is Yoshi to the rescue! The highlight of this scene is when Yoshi cuts one of the thug’s hands off! Willie befriends Yoshi and as a token of his appreciation, he takes Yoshi out for lunch. Their lunch is interrupted when some of the thugs that Yoshi ran off come back looking for revenge and we end up with a bunch of dead thugs and now the police are really getting suspicious.
- To Live and Die in LA: Dr. Richards is freaking out due to the police interest and is looking to cover his own ass. So he gets some of his boys from the lab to track down Yoshi and do the job they were originally tasked with, perform an autopsy on Yoshi. Chris is opposed to this plan of action and goes on a mission of her own to help Yoshi. Does this become Samurai Autopsy? Does Yoshi escape or is he arrested for the killing spree he went on? I’ll let you find out when you check out Ghost Warrior!
I believe one of the reasons that Ghost Warrior had a unique feel was because it was produced by Empire Pictures, a company ran by Albert Band and his son, Charles. Empire was known more for horror films in the 1980’s with titles like The Re-Animator, Troll, TerrorVision and Ghoulies among their most popular releases. Empire did dabble in the action genre, but their action titles usually included sci-fi or horror elements… Eliminators, Arena and Zone Troopers are perfect examples and Ghost Warrior is no exception.
Ghost Warrior would be classified as a hidden gem in my book. Casting an actual Japanese actor in Hiroshi Fujioka was perfect as he seemed completely out of place, which is obviously one of the big elements of the story. Ghost Warrior is a movie I would recommend to friends and one with a decent level of rewatchability.
Now for a few bonus Ghost Warrior Bullet Points…
- Rubenstein: Action fans may recognize Phil Rubenstein, who plays one of the detectives in Ghost Warrior. Rubenstein was also the Mayor of Detroit’s right hand man in Robocop 2 and the assistant warden in Tango & Cash.
- Rosetta Stone: I’m not sure Chris Welles was the best candidate for the job. Sure she knew “Oriental History” but she could not speak Japanese. C’mon Chris Welles!
- I Don’t Want My MTV: When Yoshi first leaves the confines of his room at the lab, he sees television for the first time and is quite confused by the heavy metal music video that’s playing. Yoshi did not appear to be a fan. Here’s a little trivia… the music video playing was actually a scene from the movie The Dungeon Master (another Empire Pictures release). The song is Tormenter by W.A.S.P. You can check out the video below to see if you agree or disagree with Yoshi’s musical tastes.