Action, Comedy, Monsters, Police, Super Hero

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990)

Comments Off on Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1990) 23 September 2016


Production Company: Troma EntertainmentNamco Limited, Gaga Communications

Distributed By: Troma Entertainment

Blu-ray Release: November 10, 2015

Director: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz

Rating: UnRated

Reviewed By James M. Dubs

I’ll watch anything…including Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D.

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is a very strange movie, and I’m speaking beyond the obvious. Naturally one will expect some level of oddity and absurdity with a title like Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. After all, our titular character is a rainbow gowned Japanese magician that fights crime with deadly projectile chopsticks and fatal sushi. If this all sounds completely stereotypical and offensive then welcome to the wonderful world of Troma Entertainment.

Film Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. begins with some clumsy exposition about a prophecy foretelling of the rise of “the evil one” that can only be stopped by “the chosen one” setting up your classic tale of destiny, and good versus evil.

kabuki_1Rick Gianasi plays Sgt. Harry Griswold, a dopey, bumbling, NYC detective that has been assigned to investigate the murder of a Japanese Kabuki actor. Harry attends a theatrical performance of “The Kabuki Odd Couple” where the cast are gunned down and murdered by a mysterious group of thugs. Harry tries to stop the gang, but destiny intervenes when one of the elder Japanese performers, possessed with the spirit of a great Kabuki warrior, grabs hold of Griswold and passes the spirit on to the New York cop.

Endowed with the supernatural powers of an ancient spirit, our reluctant hero endures uncontrollable transformations (like a bout with puberty) bringing the Kabukiman out at inopportune times putting both his personal and professional life in disarray. There to assist Harry control his powers (not by choice but necessity) is Lotus (Susan Byun), granddaughter of the deceased Japanese elder. With the help of Lotus, Harry begins to gain some control of his newfound powers and kick a little bad guy ass in the process. But can Harry ultimately accept the responsibilities thrust upon him before the arrival of “the evil one” threatens to rule over Earth for eternity?

kabuki_3Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is just a silly movie and you get exactly what you might expect. It’s pure Kaufman, juvenile schlock that plays very superficially to the lowest common denominator. Don’t expect to find any nuanced performances, or subtext in the story. Everything is played and directed right on the surface. Bad guys are bad. Good guys are good. Even Kaufman’s script is a super simplification of a standard good versus evil plot. So why watch this movie?

Lloyd Kaufman has a very unique style and vision for his films. He is a master of blending juvenile comedy, raunchy shock, over the top gore, and sex. No fart is too loud, no bodily fluid too gross to put on screen. You will either adore his style or be repelled by it. For example, an early sequence starts with two Wall Street douche bags admiring a new car obtained with the money from insider trading. The camera tilts up to show a high rise apartment complex and we cut to a thug in a fake wig stabbing a child in the face with a sword. The attacker impales a man, and throws a naked woman out of a high rise apartment window, all while cackling maniacally in the most cheesy way. We cut back to the Wall Street guys when one says, “The ladies will be falling all over you.” Aaaannnd… The naked woman falls on the owner of the car. [Cue drum rimshot]. Even though Kaufman murders children in the opening frames, his tone is clear from the onset. He’s playing for laughs through violence and depending on your preferred type of humor, you’ll either laugh along or groan.

kabuki_5Even by lowered Troma standards, I still found problems with this Troma picture. For starters, the run time is way too long. This unrated version of Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. runs about 105 minutes and although I don’t think the movie is boring, it certainly over stays its welcome, especially by the time “the evil one” finally shows up.

What is also apparent from the onset are definite tone shifts. In the disc’s audio commentary, Kaufman confirms a report that there were creative disputes during the making of the film. Co-director and producer Michael Herz, along with their Japanese investors, wanted a more “family friendly” film, while Kaufman pushed for his signature style of eradicating the bounds of good taste. What ultimately spawned from this dispute is a mash-up of PG-13 and R rated material that feels unfocused. If the producers wanted a “family friendly” film, then Kaufman wasn’t the right choice to direct. However, with Kaufman attached, the producers really shouldn’t have been shocked when the creator of The Toxic Avenger took things a little too far from time to time. With Kaufman only half unleashed, the film flounders and fails to find a cohesive direction.

Another major point of criticism is with Kaufman’s script. Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. found its origins in Japan when, during a press conference of The Toxic Avenger II (filmed in part on location in Japan), Kaufman was introduced to Tetsu Fujimura who further introduced him to Masaya Nakamura of Namco Limited. These men were impressed with Kaufman’s creativity in utilizing Japan for Toxie II and offered to finance a film based on a Kabuki-themed super hero. So Kaufman created a treatment about an American college student who becomes the superhero Kabukiman. Fortunately, Michael Herz realized that the treatment was basically a carbon copy of The Toxic Avenger. Instead of Melvin the mop boy turning into Toxie, Kaufman had a beer drinking, woman chasing, college student. Unfortunately the only thing that really changed was the main character’s profession. Instead of a student, the protagonist became a Detective and Kaufman’s 2nd grade script isn’t diverse enough to distance itself from the far superior The Toxic Avenger.

kabuki_7Perhaps my largest criticism is that Kaufman and Herz didn’t quite have a handle on the character of either Harry Griswold or the Kabukiman. In more recent years, Kaufman has had time to refine the character into the alcoholic, attention whore that he is today. But back in the early 90s Kaufman and Herz had little more than a vague idea and it shows. Harry Griswold isn’t interesting enough to carry the picture and even when he turns into the Kabukiman, it feels more or less like Griswold in face paint.

Kabukiman (sans Harry Griswold) later appeared in a number of cameo appearances in the Tromaverse and almost spawned his own cartoon along side The Toxic Crusaders. However, the Kabukiman never took off in the way The Toxic Avenger did, but that’s not really a surprise considering how the character and film was mishandled. Ultimately, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. never rose to meet the needs of a mainstream movie and it never pushed itself far enough to compete with the more extreme and memorable Troma films. Fans of Kabukiman have been clamoring for a sequel ever since his 1996 video debut, and maybe one day Kaufman will do the character justice. Until then, fans of Troma Entertainment can at least feel secure in an above average Troma release rising to the entertainment levels of films like The Toxic Avenger II and III.

Video & Audio Rating: ★★½☆☆

kabuki_6One thing that stands out throughout the film is an increased budget and production value. This is most apparent in the film’s image. Now before you get too excited, temper those expectations because Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. won’t rise to the levels of Owen Roizman filming The Exorcist. What you will get is a fairly good detail, a natural amount of film grain, and an impressive color palette, especially for a low-budget Troma film. You also get a fair share of source problems, like hairs stuck in the film gate, or print damage, but this all plays to the charms of the picture.

Now for the bad news. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio is an absolute nuisance. I’m not speaking of the Kaufman’s use of stock sound effects, or the low budget Madame Butterfly inspired score. Throughout the film there are periods in which a buzzing grows in intensity during prolonged scenes and then disappears as quickly as it appeared. It’s clearly a huge problem in the original tapes and one that is not easily corrected without pricey re-shoots.

Extras Rating: ★★★★☆


  • Intro by Lloyd Kaufman & Behind The Chopsticks (6:27, HD): When you first launch the disc in your blu-ray player (immediately following the FBI copyright warning) the disc force starts another one of “Uncle Lloydie’s” typical film introductions. In this one, he introduces “Behind The Chopsticks” (an obvious reference to VH1’s Behind the Music) in which Sgt. Kabukiman is interviewed about his life up to this point. Much of the intro is fictitious backstory for the modern Kabukiman persona, but there are a few bits of interesting information about his appearances in other films. The downside to this disc extra is that it can only be accessed on initial launch. It cannot be accessed through the special features section of the disc menu. Furthermore, if your player has disc memory technology (like a PS3 or PS4), the next time you launch the disc it will start at your previous stopping point. The only way to watch this feature again is to delete the disc cache information in your disc player and reboot the disc.
  • Commentary: features co-writer/director Lloyd Kaufman.
  • Interview With Rick Gianasi (6:45, HD): While at the Megacon Convention in Orlando FL, Lloyd Kaufman catches up with actor Rick Gianasi (the original Sgt. Kabukiman) and throws a number of fan favorite questions at the Florida native.
  • “Kabukiman Karaoke” (2:35, HD): Ugh! This one’s hard to watch. Presumably at the same Orlando convention, we see attendees of a Troma convention panel participate in a sing-along of the Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. theme song. The extra even comes equipped with karaoke lyrics!
  • “Kabukiman Cocktail Corner” (12:08, HD): This is a talk show style show hosted by the superhero, joined by Kaufman and episode guest Brian Quinn (Impractical Jokers).
  • “Stupid Moments in Troma History” (2:50, SD): A fictional re-enactment about Sgt. Kabukiman’s involvement in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
  • Sgt. Kabukiman Original Trailer (3:35, SD)
  • “Tromadance 2015 Highlights” (5:20, HD): Lloyd Kaufman has been celebrating independent underground cinema since the inception of Troma. Tromadance is a free film festival that accepts all manner of independent works and this segment showcases many of the proceedings in 2015.

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

kabuki_8Critiquing a Troma produced, Lloyd Kaufman directed, movie is mostly a pointless exercise. You either like this brand of entertainment or you don’t. So really it’s a matter of degrees. If you like The Toxic Avenger II and III then you can feel secure in purchasing Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. If you’re kind of lukewarm to Kaufman’s more “mainstream film” attempts and prefer his “harder” stuff, then this film falls short of your expectations. However, I will point out that any Kaufman/Herz directed film is infinitely better than many of Troma’s distributed offerings. Just see my previous review. All in all, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. is a simple and fun story with a decent video presentation and an impressive array of extras worth checking out.


- who has written 70 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

James Dubs is a father and husband who loves his family first and movies a close second. He believes every movie is worth watching once and, as a film fan and critic, believes that even the worst movies offer something in return. His mission is to watch anything and report without pretension. Follow James Dubs on Twitter and send him suggestions on movies you would like reviewed - popular, obscure, independent, etc. He'll watch anything for you.

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