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1991, dir. Lloyd Kaufman & Michael Herz
104 min. Not Rated.
Starring: Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden, Thomas Crnkovich.

Review by Noel Wood

When people think of Troma, they tend to think of a few trademark characters. Of course, everyone loves Toxie, the character that helped put the studio on the map through four films. But the other big name in the Troma catalog is Kabukiman, star of one of Troma's most popular offerings, SGT. KABUKIMAN, NYPD.

This film is actually sort of a spin-off of THE TOXIC AVENGER series, anyway. In THE TOXIC AVENGER PART 2, Toxie travels to Japan, and bumps into someone named Kabukiboy. Legend has it that Lloyd Kaufman and the gang got some interest from Japanese investors and decided to make this as the pilot for a family franchise. But due to the fact that it got a little too Tromatized in the process, the Land of the Rising Sun wasn't too impressed with the final result, and it became yet another film in Troma's catalogue.

But although it still contains the requisite Troma sex and violence, it was apparently still tame enough to earn a PG-13 rating, making it the "safest" film in the Troma library. You can almost detect the "family film" element that peeks it way out every now and again.

Much like Toxie before him, Sgt. Kabukiman is an accidental super hero, being transformed into a much more powerful form by circumstances beyond his control. In this case, our star is just an ordinary New York City police officer (yes, for once, this one doesn't take place in Tromaville) named Harry Griswold. Harry's not a bad cop, but he seems to get himself in embarassing situations just in time for Captain Bender to stick his nose in. One night, he stops in to watch a performance at a Kabuki theater, and all hell breaks loose. One of the cast members flips out and starts shooting up the rest of the performers, and Harry runs in to save the day.

But Harry wasn't expecting to get groped and fondled by a dying old Japanese man, who lays a liplock on the cop before taking his eternal celestial dirtnap. And he certainly wasn't expecting Captain Bender to show up right in time to see Harry's face made up in the paint of the Kabuki performers.

Before he can say "banzai", Harry starts noticing some changes. In the middle of a meeting with Captain Bender, his loafers metamorphasize into wooden sandals and his jeans start becoming a kimono. He gets strange cravings for raw fish. He starts to put some pieces together when he meets Lotus, the attractive granddaughter of the Kabuki performer who laid a fat one on him. She tries to make him eat worms and warns him of the prophesy of the Ancient Ones: "At the end of Mercury's next journey, the dragon shall dance through the hoop of Jupiter. If, at that moment, the monkey will ride the jaguar and the tiger will feast on the nubile...the order of the universe will be such that The Evil One will reign supreme for eternity."

There's some bad stuff going on in town, but the police force are turning a blind eye to it. Kids are being slaughtered, cops are assaulted in the park, and the local Reverend is running a crime ring. At the center of it all is Reginald Stewart, a crime boss who just may be more than meets the eye. Lotus begins training Harry to take on these evil forces, but it's going to take a lot of hard work and discipline. And sweet lovin'.

It takes a while to get the hang of this whole Kabukiman thing. The first time Harry tries to voluntarily change into Kabukiman, he winds up becoming a circus clown and is forced to use silly string as a weapon. But eventually, Harry is able to harness his powers and make the best out of them. When the bad guys get their hands on Lotus, it's up to Kabukiman to save the world from The Evil One.

In the tradion of Troma, the villains in SGT. KABUKIMAN, NYPD are a colorful bunch of goofballs who have no moral aptitude whatsoever. All of the other trademarks are more or less intact, although most of the gore and nudity is toned down for this one. It all comes together for a great time, and one of the finest works that Troma has put out to date.

Rick Gianasi puts the real heart in the movie with his portrayal of Harry. He overacts just perfectly, captures the spirit with fantastic body language and facial expressions, and really looks like he's having a good time in the part. His naivete and "aw-shucks" good-heartedness really seal the deal, and his transformation into the superhero comes off perfectly: he can be a bad-ass when he needs to be, but is still a goofy bastard most of the time.

The final scene in the film goes for a similair over-the-top ending to THE TOXIC AVENGER PART 3, with "The Evil One" being revealed. The whole monkey-jaguar thing is actually done in a pretty clever little pun, and really punctuates what is an altogether fun film.

Even if Troma ain't your thing, I still recommend SGT. KABUKIMAN, NYPD for most audiences. It never takes itself too seriously or crosses into the territory of unwatchable goofiness that turns some people off of this type of thing. Rent or buy this sucker today.

Rating: Five out of five Toxies.


All Material Copyright 1998-2006 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.

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