Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

CapeCapeHalf a capeWrecking ball

It’s a Troma film. That may either fill you with nostalgia, or instill an immediate urge to flee, depending on which Troma films you’ve seen.

You could say there are two Tromas. Troma One is the band of renegade indie filmmakers who produced a whole string of cult hits on shoestring budgets, most notably the Toxic Avenger series. Troma Two has been largely just a distributor of other people’s crappy independent films. Troma Two can be bad news: I have not seen a single thing in that category that wasn’t dreadful... and I don’t mean dreadful in a good way, I mean boringly dreadful, making their viewing an absolute utter waste of a piece of your life you can never get back. It is now my established policy to never bother watching one of these again.

But Troma One is another story, and this is a Troma One film. The golden age of real Troma movies was the eighties, and this is of that time. Of course, a lot of those are plenty crappy as well... and sometimes they seem to pretty much exhaust their creative input on just coming up with a perfect B-movie title that sums up the whole film, such as Chopper Chicks in Zombietown or Surf Nazis Must Die. I mean, once you’ve got a title like that, you’ve pretty much already got whatever audience you’re going to ever get to come out to the film, right? But in this case, they made some genuine effort.

It’s still full of trademark Troma-isms, such as crude social satire, political incorrectness, making sure that the name “Troma” gets mentioned inside the film, and lots of eighties-style gratuitous boob shots. And, of course, grossout effects. But the latter two are kept to a minimum in this one, as it’s one of the few Troma movies that’s rated PG-13 instead of R. In spite of that, though, one still gets the impression that Troma in the eighties was not a place for an aspiring actress to look for any work if she didn’t want to get her tits out.

(An R-rated edit of this movie does exist, but it’s not the one usually seen.)

So anyway, Kabukiman is a spoof superhero. He is imbued with the powers of... traditional Japanese theater! Which at first looks mostly like weird makeup and strange slow-motion posturing, but then it turns out he can deflect bullets with a paper fan, and shoot chopsticks out of his sleeves. Etcetera. Yeah, this film ain’t exactly respectful in its treatment of Japanese culture. The whole idea is kind of a mockery of fanboy Asiophilia.

The film’s best asset may be Rick Gianasi, who plays sergeant Harry Griswold, a.k.a. Kabukiman. The guy can play macho action lead, and also has a gift for clowning. Literal clowning, at one point — when an attempt to summon Kabuki powers goes wrong, he transforms into an actual clown. To me, this ended up being the funniest part of the film. This part also includes the big car chase: a scene so far beyond Troma’s usual bargain basement resources that they ended up reusing clips from it in other movies for years afterwards.

(I couldn’t help noticing that, like certain other very cheap action movies, the cars that get smashed are noticeably outdated models.)

Anyway, this movie may be totally stupid, and the laughs are hardly of the slick nonstop Hollywood variety, but it’s fun.