REVIEW: Sgt. Kabukiman, N.Y.P.D. (1990)

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1990, Troma Inc.

Directors:
Lloyd Kaufman
Michael Herz
Producers:
Lloyd Kaufman
Michael Herz
Writers:
Lloyd Kaufman (story and screenplay)
Andrew Osborne (screenplay)
Jeffrey W. Sass (screenplay)
Cinematography:
Bob Williams
Editing:
Peter Novak
Ian Slater

Cast:
Rick Gianasi (Sgt. Harry Griswold/Sgt. Kabukiman)
Susan Byun (Lotus)
Bill Weeden (Reginald Stuart)
Thomas Crnkovich (Rembrandt)
Larry Robinson (Reverand Snipes)
Noble Lee Lester (Captain Bender)
Brick Bronsky (Jughead)
Pamela Alster (Connie LaRosa)
Shaler MccClure (Felicia)
Jeff Weinberg (Hernandez)
Joe Fleishaker (Josephs)
Fumio Furuya (Sato)

After three films with a certain hideously deformed superhero with superhuman size and strength, the Troma Team unveils a new hero in their first accidental Oriental superhero.

New York police sergeant Harry Griswold is sent to a theater to watch a performance of a Kabuki show. What he soon learns is that the lead actor of the performance, Sato, is being hunted down by a maniac by the name of Rembrandt. Sato is actually the possessor of an ancient power that he was supposed to have passed on to a successor, but Rembrandt had gotten to the successor, killing him and his family. During the massive shootout, Harry finds himself given the powers from Sato, changing him at times from all-American to part-Japanese.

Sato’s granddaughter Lotus informs Harry that he is the now the possessor of the powers of Kabukiman, who is the hero that can stop an ancient prophecy by the Evil One, who is actually theater sponsor and prominent businessman Reginald Stuart in disguise. As Stuart learns of Harry becoming Kabukiman, he intends to have him killed by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Harry has no idea how to fully use his powers and to do so, he must reluctantly rely on Lotus’ teachings for him to be able to learn his destiny as Kabukiman.

The Troma Team are quite a bunch when it comes to their films. Starting with teen comedies they have transitioned into one of the greatest independent film empires with their madcap meshing of genres that all began with some film called The Toxic Avenger in 1984. After two sequels (actually one 4-hour film sliced in half to make two), it was during the shoot in Tokyo for Toxic Avenger Part II that Namco’s Tetsu Fujiwara came onboard and pitched to Lloyd Kaufman an idea for a new superhero, Kabukiman.

Now, this is where it gets extremely interesting. The original idea was to make this film the most family-friendly of the Troma catalogue, because Namco had wanted kids to see their new superhero. However, during production, Lloyd Kaufman began to add his trademark touches of gratuitous nudity and gory violence much to the chagrin of one of the scripters and Namco themselves. However, the amount of these trademarks are actually tame in comparison to their more recent films. It can be safe to say that it is even a bit tamer than The Toxic Avenger Part II.

The movie does rely on some fun, especially in some witty dialogue and hysterics as well as the superhero scenes. Rick Gianasi is great to watch as both Griswold and Kabukiman, especially during the early transitions before going full cocoon mode to become the “accidental Oriental superhero” with some pretty nifty make-up effects courtesy of Timothy Considine, who designed the make-up effects for all three Toxic Avenger sequels. In one funny sequence, thinking he will turn into Kabukiman, due to the fact he has not fully mastered the Kabukiman powers, turns himself into something truly unbelievable. Look out for Gianasi even paying homage to a 1989 adaptation of a certain “dark knight” when he confronts a thug, with a break of the fourth wall for literally one second.

The term “behind every great man there is a woman” couldn’t be done in a funnier way than Harry is with Lotus, played by Susan Byun. Byun and Gianasi have the chemistry of an old bickering couple that during Harry’s training to harness his powers goes a little too far when we see them beating the bejesus out of each other in hysterical fashion. Meanwhile, Bill Weeden nonchalantly plays Reginald Stuart, our film’s villain, with such grace and style until his transition into the Evil One makes him go a certain level of crazy. And it is during the transformation into the Evil One that showcases one of the funniest scenes from the recently departed Joe Fleishaker, who plays a smartmouth cop who is always on Harry’s case.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is truly perhaps one of the tamest films in Troma’s catalogue of recent films over the past three decades. However, it is a fun superhero film. In fact, it is one of the funniest superhero films with some hilarious performances and done in a way that only the Troma Team can do it.

WFG RATING: A

DVD

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