Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D. (1991)
AKA Kabukiman

Starring Rick Gianasi, Susan Byun, Bill Weeden, Thomas Crnkovich, Larry Robinson, Noble Lee Lester, Brick Bronsky, Pamela Alster, Fumio Furuya

Directed by: Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz

Baby murders! Disembowelment! Cocaine! Gratuitous sex! …all within the first three minutes! You guessed it. It’s time for another classic from our friends at Troma Entertainment.

Don’t let that fool you though. Sgt. Kabukiman is actually a pretty mild shot from the Troma cannon. If you want your gore, titties, and trademark tasteless imagery, you’ll get it here. Just don’t go in expecting a stomach-churning, gender-bending workout on the scale of Poultrygeist or Terror Firmer. This is why I nominate Sgt. Kabukiman as an excellent choice for those seeking a decent entry-level Troma film. Trust me, after this one you’ll know if you want to dive deeper into this stuff.

Sgt. Kabukiman obviously derives its influence from campy, ham-fisted superhero action like the Adam West Batman series of the 1960s. There’s a lot of goofy-ass cartoon humor littered throughout, and while that’s usually the thing I look forward to least from the folks at Troma, it actually seems to serve the material a little better here. Fans shouldn’t worry too much though. You’ll still get moments of silly and disgusting over the top gore, as well as the complete lack of social consciousness you laid your hard-earned bucks down for.

Mr. Sato is the world’s most famous Kabuki Performer. When a corrupt CEO funds his show in order to stage an assassination, Mr. Sato is forced to pass his ancient kabuki powers onto the nearest individual before he dies. Enter Harry Griswold N.Y.P.D., an off-duty officer who was enjoying the show when the gunfire broke out. He takes out a few gunmen before leaping onstage just in time to inherit the kabuki powers and a mouthful of slithering worms from Mr. Sato’s dying breath. Instantly Harry finds himself in a colorful kimono and traditional facepaint which is met with much ridicule from his precinct buddies the next day.

In the interrogation room, Harry is met by a woman named Lotus, the beautiful granddaughter of Mr. Sato. She warns him of an ancient prophecy involving the greedy CEO, who is apparently also known as “The Evil One.” She also urges him to learn to control his newfound kabuki powers… which he completely blows off before noticing that he has developed a voracious appetite for raw fish and has gained the uncanny ability to identify ancient Japanese swords with relative ease. While meeting with the police chief he suddenly finds his pants replaced by kabuki robes and wood sandals… Now wait for it… wait for it…

Surprisingly, we don’t get the ultra-obvious “I’m turning Japanese” joke until about 40 minutes in, another shining example of that tasteful restraint that we’ve come to expect from the Troma team.

Hot on the trail of the Kabuki theater murderers, Harry visits a park to swap leads with his fitness-crazed female officer friend who jogs away, only to be harassed and raped by hired thugs. This sends Harry into a steam-induced frenzy as he is transformed, Incredible Hulk-style into Sgt. Kabukiman. Political correctness gets thrown out the window as our hero impales an evil henchman onto a tree with a flurry of flying chopsticks. A female attacker meets her end as Kabukiman launches killer projectile-sushi into her mouth.  The best is saved for last as he delivers a devastating death-stomp, giving us our first crushed head of the film. (Be sure to knock one back if you’re playing the Troma drinking game.)

Later, the remaining thugs find sanctuary in a huge church which is run by a corrupt Al Sharpton-like reverend who seems more interested in passing around the collection plate and peddling dope than he does preaching the word. Harry confronts the thugs and spontaneously begins his transformation sequence. But this time when the smoke clears there is no Kabukiman, instead he has transformed himself into a fat ass clown. He gives chase anyway in a sequence that finally delivers that mad unicycle, fire-breathing pursuit you have always dreamed of. The action takes them through a children’s birthday party where the goons unleash hundreds of rounds of automatic gunfire while over stimulated kids swarm the clown. In a completely uncharacteristic display of taste and integrity the kids remain unscathed. Only in a Troma movie will you find the sparing of a child from an almost certain, grisly death to be the most shocking moment of the film.

The chase culminates with one of the coolest car stunts ever committed to celluloid. The pursuing vehicle launches into the air, flips over and manages to land before inexplicably exploding without reason. It’s a stunt so insanely badass (and expensive) that the Troma team has managed to splice it into nearly every film it has done since.

Attributing his flawed transformation to a lack of kabuki discipline, Harry seeks out Lotus once again. She subjects him to a grueling training session in which he dons a red ninja suit while hanging upside down, separating grains of rice while being constantly slapped in the nuts with a stalk of bamboo. He also masters the art of Haiku, which cleanses his mind and gives him total mastery of his Kabukiman powers. After a harrowing montage of our hero carving giant sushi rolls out of pimps and prostitutes set to the hair-metal inspired Kabukiman theme song (it sounds like an outtake from a super-badical White Lion recording session), Kabukiman is ready to take on The Evil One. On the eve of the prophecy, Harry manages to infiltrate the dockside headquarters but realizes it is too late. The greedy CEO has already fulfilled the foretelling by feeding a prostitute to a tiger (?). The Evil One begins a gruesome transformation of his own, oozing pus and maggots before turning into a badass blue-faced demon with a severed zombie head in each hand. It sounds like something from an Iron Maiden album cover, and that’s actually not too far off. As far as movie monsters go, The Evil One stands near the top. But this being a Troma film, they have to give us a little more, which is why The Evil One also sports a gigantic cock made out of a wriggling caterpillar.

The final battle is pretty anticlimactic as Harry calls upon his Kabukiman powers once more before dispatching the awesome looking monster in a very unusual fashion.

This film was a pretty obvious attempt to duplicate the success of another crime-fighting Troma superhero, The Toxic Avenger. Although Kabukiman fared less well than his predecessor, he still managed to carve himself a permanent place in Troma lore. Fans will notice him in bit parts of several other Troma films, such as Terror Firmer and Citizen Toxie, where we actually get to witness the long-anticipated Toxie vs. Kabukiman battle.

The film’s main fault lies in its uneven tone. At times it comes off as a goofy, tokusatsu-inspired Power Rangers show aimed at kids. Cartoon-style hijinks and corny sound-effects only help to punctuate this point. Suddenly out of nowhere you will get gratuitous sex, blowjob jokes, or buckets of blood, vomit, guts, and poop. But in the end, all that shit is kind of inconsequential. I’m sure if you’re watching a film titled Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., cinematic consistency is probably the last thing on your mind.