While I call myself an Asian film nut, that doesn't apply to all areas. I definitely lean toward the cultish. Treacly commercial dramas, for instance, are an area I steadfastly avoid in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, etc films. A genre I always approach with trepidation is comedy. I don't know what it is about Asian sensibilities but a penchant for overt mugging and the simply stupid is pretty prevalent in their comedies. Bear in mind, I love stupid, but when it comes to Asian comedy I sometimes feel like I'm missing the joke (especially with cultural references) or the joke that is there, simply isn't enough.
Minoru Kawasaki is one of Japan's more active comedy directors. I know I saw Calamri Wrestler but I honestly don't remember much about it that I liked or disliked. His Executive Koala and The World Sinks Except for Japan have been on my radar. Because Calamari Wrestler had such a lukewarm effect on me I still haven't gotten around to watching them. Reviewing Rug Cop presented me with a further chance to check out the mans' work and lets just start by saying checking out those other Kawasaki endeavors just slid further down my list.
Stone-faced Inspector Hatsuo Genda is introduced in a typical cops 'n' robbers scenario, the hold up. The comic twist is, the bank robber is a ventriloquists dummy and when it comes time to disarm the villainous puppet from the panicked puppeteer, Genda throws off his toupee, Ultraman style, which knocks the dolls head off before zooming back onto his head. He is the Rug Cop.
Most synopsis, and the seeming half baked intent, pass Rug Cop off as a parody of 1970's Japanese cop shows. Hearing that, first thing Western viewers need to do is clear out any vision of period referencing. The setting is modern and the characters all fit into the modern day with no figure-out-of-time jokes like the Brady Bunch or Austin Powers movies utilized. That is the first point that seems like a missed opportunity for comedy. Yes, older tv had some, by today standards, silly premises, but, unless there was some subtle point I was missing, other than its stable of silly-talent detectives and simple cop show scripting Rug Cop's gags never directly looked back on that past era.
Genda is assigned to a new, small precinct and he quickly finds it is populated with fellow oddball souls with strange crime stopping traits and self-explanatory monikers, Shorty, Big Dick, Fatty, Mr. Handsome, Old Man, and The Boss. They are quickly thrown into a case involving terrorists and a case of stolen uranium. The terrorists demand a ransom or they will blow up Tokyo. I could go on but that would be misleading because really the film is about gags and not any tight story thread.
When I think of the comedy that Rug Cop aspires, Naked Gun or Sledge Hammer springs to mind. Those two had a healthy mix of sight, verbal, and referencing gags, sometimes clever but mostly stupid and silly. Rug Cop is without exception, stupid and obvious. From what I've seen of Japanese comedic tastes, they apparently think that sort of thing is funny, that the more obvious the joke is, the more simple, or poorly executed, the funnier it is. Unlike the best Mel Brooks numbers, there doesn't even have to be much of a setup or mix, a tiering of jokes, just the one gag, the one bit per scene and apparently the guffaws ensue.
I'll give some examples. One scene has Genda and the precinct assistant driving around, they exit the car and Genda's toupee turns into an afro because the humidity makes his hair frizz out. The gag being he now has a silly afro wig. And that's basically it. A man in a dime store wig. See, that's funny... because .... uhhh... it's a big wig... and you can tell it's a... uhhh... really big wig. Or, how about this one? Detective Fatty's power is that he sweats a lot, and in the big finale- no doubt you the viewer have been waiting on the edge of your seat for it!- he sweats all over the bad guys. Har-dee-har-har.
The DVD: Synapse
Picture: The film is presented Anamorphic Widescreen. Well, it is obviously pretty low budget and embraces this fact with simple set-ups, basic, muted photography, and purposefully cheap scenery and props, so one shouldn't expect a lot of visual pop. Otherwise acceptable, the transfer exhibits a tad too much noise and grain.
Sound: The disc features a sole 2.0 Stereo, Japanese language track with optional English subtitles. Again, things are on the simple side and much of it intentionally so. Thankfully the subs offer full onscreen text translation as well as the films theme song.
Extras: A nice round of extras include the usual lip-service, "Oh my didn't we all have fun?" round of featurettes- Making Of (30:40), Press Conference (8:30), and Intro by the Cast&Director (14:35). Finally, there is also a Trailer.
Conclusion: If you think a tongue-flicking, face-twitching, nerdy guy (stereotypically dumpy body, glasses, bowl haircut) named Detective Big Dick who gets a glowing, Spaceballs ripped off, lightsaber boner is high comedy, then by all means Rug Cop is the flick for you. Rug Cop's goofs don't get more elaborate than that and its safe to say your brain wont struggle to penetrate any great comedic depths. DVD is pretty good, decent image, a nice round of extras, but I gotta' go with a rental because I just didn't find it very gut-busting.