Ghost Warrior (1984)


It’s mostly known as “Ghost Warrior,” but I think I prefer the alternate title “Swordkill.” While “Ghost Warrior” is given an insightful and meaningful definition during the narrative, “Swordkill” just makes the movie sound cheap and silly. I’d love to know who thought the title “Swordkill” was a proper summary of what is a dramatic fish out of water film. J. Larry Carroll’s “Ghost Warrior” is a surprisingly straight faced tale of a warrior placed out of his time, who finds that living in mid eighties Los Angeles kind of sucks. The movie is admittedly thin on narrative, but works for the most part as a series of unfortunate events Yoshimitsu experiences. Life sure does suck for the master samurai.

Hiroshi Fujioka gives a very stern and dramatic performance as legendary samurai Yoshimitsu. After spending years avoiding war, he and his wife are chased by an army, and Yoshimitsu fails in his efforts to save his wife. After she’s murdered before his eyes, he falls in to the icy ocean and frozen alive. Four hundred years later, Yoshimitsu is discovered by a science group that accidentally thaws out Yoshimitsu. If you’re thinking “Hey this sounds like Jason X!” Well, you’re about half right. “Ghost Warrior” plays the concept with a straight face, and even depicts Fujioka walking down the streets of Los Angeles in samurai garb as something to be praised. While exploring LA, he comes across a gang of thugs trying to rob an old man, and brutally massacres them. Making friends with the old man, he attempts to find a place in the new time period. Meanwhile, the science group is trying to find him before the police do, hoping to put him in a comatose state and keep him from being discovered.

That becomes increasingly more difficult, as Yoshi begins traveling around LA, and gets in to an all out battle with the thugs, all of whom want revenge and are intent on shooting him dead. Star Fujioka really sells the concept of a character who is suffering and trying to figure out this new world around him. That said the movie itself tends to drag, never really sure if it’s an action thriller, time travelling drama, or potential romance. Janet Julian is never quite the protagonist she should be, wandering around and weeping for Yoshimitsu instead of trying to appeal to his logic and reason. Also, John Calvin as a doctor who is painted as an antagonist never does enough nasty things to root against. Despite the inherent flaws, “Ghost Warrior” is a solid mix of action, thriller, and samurai tropes, and is worth watching mainly for Hiroshi Fujioka’s committed performance.