Tag Archives: robert zdar

American Chinatown

American Chinatown


Today’s feature is an obscure flick called American Chinatown, from the writer and director of the ludicrous cult classic film, Miami Connection.

American Chinatown was written, directed, and produced by Woo-sang Park, who regularly credits himself under the pseudonym of Richard Park. His best known film by far is Miami Connection, but he made a handful of other low-budget movies from the 1970s through the 1990s, including  L.A. Streetfighters, Gang Justice, and Shaolin: The Blood Mission.

One of the cinematographers on American Chinatown was Maximo Munzi, who also shot Miami Connection for Woo-sang Park.

The team of producers for American Chinatown included Larry Larson (City Dragon), star Tae-joon Lee (Ninja Terminator), Simon Bibiyan (City Dragon, The Malibu Beach Vampires), and Moshe Bibiyan (Warrior of Justice, City Dragon).

The musical score and editing for American Chinatown was done by Ron Adler, who worked on a handful of other small movies like Invisible Temptation, The Secret Force, and City Dragon.

The American Chinatown cast is headlined by the late Robert Z’dar (Maniac Cop, Tango & Cash, Soultaker, Maniac Cop 2, Maniac Cop 3, Samurai Cop), and also features Tae-joon Lee (Ninja Terminator), Bobby Kim (Black Belt Angels, Deadly Kick, Mark of the Black Dragon), and Liat Goodson (Vice Girls, The Prince), along with a number of inexperienced and non-actors to fill out the cast.

The plot of American Chinatown centers around a gang war, during which a top enforcer unknowingly falls for his boss’s adopted sister. He has to figure out a way to reconcile his feelings for the woman with his loyalty to the gang, all while leading the charge in an ever-heating conflict with the cross-town rival criminal organization.

American Chinatown is also known as Chinatown 2, which is not to be confused with the actual sequel to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (The Two Jakes), which released in 1990.

The reception to American Chinatown has been generally negative, though very few people have actually heard of it or seen it. It currently has an IMDb rating of 4.2, and has a Rotten Tomatoes average audience score of .5/5. However, less than 90 ratings of the movie have been recorded on the two sites combined.

Right out of the gate, American Chinatown starts with an attempted rape, followed up by some completely inaudible and indecipherable dialogue, which is about as bad of a start as you can possibly have for a movie. On top of that, the editing and cinematography for the sequence is also astoundingly terrible, to the point where is honestly difficult to tell what is actually happening. Eventually, a mysterious man stops the assault, kicks the would-be rapists a bunch, steals their wallets and clothes, and then lets them go on their way. I guess this is supposed to set up this fellow as a badass, but the whole thing plays out really strangely, and I don’t understand why he just let them meander on their merry way.

The hero?

The acting in this movie is, across the board, just dreadful. Most movies at least have a bright spot somewhere in the cast, but that just isn’t the case here. I don’t know how this film was cast, but Robert Z’Dar is the only person who seems to know what acting even is, and that is a sad state of affairs for any film. The lead character’s love interest also has one of the most perplexing fake accents that I have ever heard in a movie, and I still can’t figure out exactly what it is supposed to be.

There are a couple of cool fight sequences spread throughout the movie, but they are all shot really poorly, so the talent of the stunt people is mostly wasted. Still, they are entertaining as the movie ever gets.

The music for American Chinatown, when it does bother to pop up, is ridiculous in the best way you could possibly hope for. It is always heavy on the synthesizers and funky beats, but suffers immensely from constantly disappearing for long periods of time, which is a damn shame.

One big problem with this film is the unlikability of the hero, who is frankly a complete asshat. I already covered how he allowed attempted rapists to wander away in the opening sequence (he does that again, by the way), but the rest of his interactions with his love interest for a good portion of the movie primarily consist of him berating her and trying to force her to leave him alone. I understand that the point is that he doesn’t want her to get wrapped up in the criminal world he lives in, but he really is a complete shit about it, though.

The whole movie has a disappointing lack of Robert Z’Dar in it, which I wasn’t exactly surprised about. He only pops up in a handful of scenes, and overall doesn’t get much time on screen when all is said and done. He does get the shit beaten out of him way more than I expected, though, particularly towards the end of the flick.


The ending to American Chinatown feels like they didn’t quite finish the move. Basically, a fight sequence ends with a freeze frame and a fade to black, without any visual resolution for the story. Then again, maybe something was covered in the inaudible dialogue that I couldn’t make heads or tails of. In any case, it is both jarring and unsatisfying as a conclusion.

Overall, American Chinatown isn’t nearly as memorable or entertaining as similar films like Miami Connection or either Lethal Ninja, but it has a few bright moments here and there. Unfortunately, they are very spread out, and the awful acting, sound editing, and cinematography makes for a trying experience to sit through, which isn’t going to be worth most people’s time.

Larry Cohen Collection: “Maniac Cop”

Maniac Cop

Next up in the Larry Cohen Collection is the cult classic “Maniac Cop,” a battle of the chins between Bruce Campbell and Robert Z’Dar.

“Maniac Cop” was written and produced by Larry Cohen, and ultimately spawned a franchise of three movies. The film was directed by William Lustig, who is best known for his sleazy cult classic films “Maniac” and “Vigilante.”

The cinematography on “Maniac Cop” was provided by two people: James Lemmo (“Maniac Cop 2”) and Vincent J. Rabe (“Hit List”), neither of whom have had much in the way of significant film credits.

The effects team for “Maniac Cop” included makeup work by Brad Look (“Thor,” “Star Trek: First Contact,” “The Hunger Games”) and Bill Miller-Jones (“Hell Comes To Frogtown,” “Maniac Cop 2,” “Maniac Cop 3”), visual effects by Larry Arpin (“The Dentist,” “The Expendables,” “Leprechaun,” “The Ambulance”), and special effects work by David Atherton (“Face/Off,” “Shocker”), John Naulin (“From Beyond,” “Re-Animator,” “Highlander II,” “The Omega Code”), Paul Staples (“Fatal Games”), and Laszlo Stumpf (“Cyborg,” “American Ninja 2”).

maniaccop3Aside from Larry Cohen, the producers on “Maniac Cop” were James Glickenhaus (“Frankenhooker,” “The Exterminator,” “McBain”) and Jefferson Richard (“976-Evil II”), who also served as a second unit director on the film

The editor for “Maniac Cop” was David Kern. who also did editing work on “Rush Hour,” “Rush Hour 2,” “The Running Man,” and “It’s Alive III.”

The music for “Maniac Cop” was provided by Jay Chattaway, who also scored William Lustig’s movies “Maniac” and “Vigilante,” as well as the Larry Cohen film “The Ambulance” and the notorious Chuck Norris flick “Invasion U.S.A.”

The art direction and production design on “Maniac Cop” was provided  by Jonathan Hodges, who has worked as a property master and carpenter on films like “Pulp Fiction,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Chopping Mall,” “House,” and “Critters.”

The cast of “Maniac Cop” reads like a b-movie all-star team: Bruce Campbell (“The Evil Dead,” “Army of Darkness”), Tom Atkins (“Halloween III,” “The Fog”), Robert Z’Dar (“Soultaker,” “Samurai Cop,” “Tango & Cash”), Richard Roundtree (“Shaft,” “Q: The Winged Serpent”), Jill Gatsby (“Vampire’s Kiss,” “Class of 1999,” “The Ambulance”), James Dixon (“It’s Alive”), and beloved director Sam Raimi (“The Evil Dead,” “Drag Me To Hell”).

maniaccop6The story of “Maniac Cop” follows an investigation into a series of murders committed by a man dressed as a police officer in the streets of New York City. The NYPD is desperate to find the culprit as the public is whipped into a frenzy of suspicion and distrust of the department. Meanwhile, the investigation begins to uncover a possible suspect with a motive for revenge against the NYPD brass.

Two of the stars of “Maniac Cop,” Bruce Campbell and Robert Z’Dar, have both gone by the nickname of “The Chin” due to their distinctive facial structures.

Sam Raimi, the acclaimed director of films like “The Evil Dead” and “The Evil Dead II,” appears not only as an actor in “Maniac Cop,” but also worked behind the camera for the St. Patrick’s Day parade sequence in the movie.

maniaccop9Famed boxerJake LaMotta, whose biography provided the source material for Martin Scorcese’s “Raging Bull,” acts in a brief cameo in “Maniac Cop” as one of the unnamed police officers.

“Maniac Cop” was filmed back to back with another William Lustig film, “Hit List,” which starred Leo Rossi (“Leonard Part 6,” “Maniac Cop 2”) and Lance Henriksen (“Aliens,” “The Last Samurai”).

maniaccop2Over the past couple of years, rumors have surfaced about a potential “Maniac Cop” remake or prequel involving director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Drive,” “Only God Forgives”) and writer Ed Brubaker (“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”), though I haven’t been able to dig up anything since May 2014.

“Maniac Cop” was not particularly well-received, and currently has Rotten Tomatoes scores of 50% (critics) and 39% (audience), along with an IMDb rating of 6.0. That said, it certainly has a dedicated cult following.

“Maniac Cop” didn’t make money on it’s limited theatrical release, grossing under 700,000 on a 1.1 million budget, but still turned into a horror franchise of some note with a series of three films.

Just as any good horror movie should do, “Maniac Cop” latches onto a public anxiety. In this case, this fear is of the police abusing their position of power, which puts people in a position of helplessness due to the corruption in the institution.

“Maniac Cop” doesn’t exactly take a stance on the police in general, and presents both pro- and anti-cop sentiments. The corruption of the institution is emphasized, as well as the (justified) lack of public trust in it. At the same time, a few of the police officers are portrayed as “good” cops: honest, principled, and willing to stand up to the institution at its worst.

maniaccop7“Maniac Cop” received a harsh reception at the time, in the sense that people seemed to either love it or hate it. It is undoubtedly a b-movie made with generally low quality, which turns off a certain amount of viewers to start with. It also takes elements from a number of genres, such as mystery, slasher, and your typical cop flick, which is a mixture that didn’t necessarily work for everyone. Further, it isn’t as campy or hammy as you might expect for a film with Bruce Campbell in the lead: he actually plays his role pretty straight, which is unusual. It doesn’t help that the movie is also a pretty slow burn, something that most slasher fans don’t have much patience for.

Personally, I like “Maniac Cop.” It is a bit slow, but the intrigue and performances kept me from ever getting bored with it. Likewise, the mixture of the genre elements made it a little more interesting to me than just your typical slasher flick, and the elements of social commentary on the police were more than welcome. I also appreciate that it maintains some of the gritty ambiance of William Lustig’s earlier film “Maniac,” which is one of the stronger elements of that flick.

maniaccop8Something that I will agree with the detractors of “Maniac Cop” is that Campbell isn’t quite campy enough for what audiences expect from him, which may have been intentional on either his or Lustig’s part. I also would have loved more of Richard Roundtree in the film, to help illustration more of the corruption in the department (also because he’s just great).

Overall, I think b-movie fans will generally find things to enjoy about “Maniac Cop,” though I think specially Cohen and Lustig fans will like it the best of anyone. General audiences are a bit of a toss-up: I’m sure there are many who would find it too dull, but I don’t think that is necessarily true across the board. I’m interested to see if the remake actually happens, because I feel like Refn’s style could fit the film quite well, and adapt the story effectively to current audiences. I also think that now may be the perfect time to bring back Cordell, as public anxieties about police run amok seem to be at an all-time high.

Robert Z’Dar: 1950-2015

It was announced yesterday that b-movie actor Robert Z’Dar died Monday night. His career included countless entertaining b-movies, so I wanted to provided a brief retrospective here in the form of some trailers. Well wishes to all of his loved ones and friends, and may his unforgettable performances and jaw live on indefinitely in his films.


Maniac Cop


Maniac Cop II


Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence


Samurai Cop


Tango & Cash




Future War


American Chinatown