“Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” was filmed in 1990, but went unreleased in the United States until 1996, which was right around the time Troma Team Video was releasing “Tromeo and Juliet.” If you rented any of the videos at this point in time, you were subjected to the trailers for both films. That in-your-face marketing is what helped both of these films garner some attention, and the sad part is since they were released, Troma has gone downhill. They seem to have traded in goofy humor for mean-spiritedness, and ” Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” is one of the last great examples of why Troma used to be a great little low-budget company.
The film follows Harry Griswold, who is literally turning Japanese. The streets of New York are running rampant with crime, and on top of that, an evil prophecy is trying to take over the world. The power of the Kabuki master is accidentally transferred to Griswold, who has no clue what any of this means.
Enter a beautiful young woman named Lotus, who tries to teach Griswold the ways of the Kabuki master and how to control his special new powers. Of course, this is Troma, so his powers are anything but politically correct and include fatal sushi, flying sandals and lethal chopsticks. Not to mention the fact he can sing arias from “Madame Butterfly.”
This all comes into bloody glory when we watch Kabukiman in action, turning a pimp and prostitute into sushi.
He even has his own theme song, which plays throughout the entire film. Just remember that he wipes out evil because it is his destiny.
Lloyd Kaufman directed the picture with his usual low-budget flair. The picture comes across almost like a children’s cartoon that was marred by sex and violence from a crazed editor. That tone is a major issue for the film, and a reason why some audiences will never enjoy this picture. This picture works best for people who love Troma and the B-movie fun the schlock company as produced over the years. The movie is not trying to be great, but only wants put a smile on your face. You never have to wonder if the picture is serious, because it doesn’t take itself seriously for one minute.
Also, Kaufman adds a bit of topical humor with a character that is inspired by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is played with comic ingenuity by Larry Robinson. The character seems more interested in lining his pockets with money than helping people.
However, the real star of the picture is Rick Gianasi, who never seemed to get a fair shake in the movie business. The entire picture hinges on his dual performance of Griswold and Sgt. Kabukiman. His career in the early ‘80s was in low-budget trash, which included “Bad Girls Dormitory” and “Riot on 42nd Street.” In this picture he showed some comic timing, and it is perplexing why Troma never filmed a sequel. This is the company that made three “Class of Nuke’em High” pictures.
One of Gianasi’s standout scenes of comic timing includes Lotus, who tries to teach him how to control his powers. He hangs upside down and forced to count and separate grains of rice or suffer the wrath of a bamboo stick to the groin.
The film moves at a rapid pace, which leaves the viewer little to time to consider the implausibility of it all and just relax in the goofy old tradition that Troma did perfectly in the ‘80s.
“Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.” wants nothing more than to be lowbrow entertainment for adults that are still young at heart, and that is all that it is.