The Rug Cop Review
The animals might be taking a sabbatical for now, but Minoru Kawasaki’s parodying nature and enthusiasm for the surreal is more present than ever in The Rug Cop. When a group of extremists working under Greek mythological psuedynms threaten to unleash nuclear disaster upon the city of Tokyo, the cops at Hanamagari Station leap into action. But now they have a new ally. Joining ‘Big Dick’ (Iijiri Okada), ‘Fatty’ (Uganda Tora), ‘Shorty’ (Yakan Nabe), ‘Handsome’ (Yusuke Kirishima), ‘Old Man (Michihiko Hamada) and ‘Tonko’ (Mai Hashimoto) is Detective Hatsuo Genda (Moto Fuyuki) a.k.a. ‘Rug Cop’. Genda has the highest arrest record in the history of the Metropolitan police force, but he’s always being transferred around because he’s looked upon as being a bit strange; it certainly doesn‘t help that he uses the most unorthodox methods in apprehending criminals - by throwing his own living wig at them! Now in the company of those he can relate to, Genda finds himself on his biggest and most personal case yet.
The director strips down the fashionable detective films and TV dramas of the seventies and eighties to their barest essentials as he, along with co-writer Takao Nakano, forges a cheeseball narrative of derivative twists and forced sentimentality - an intentional ploy of course in squeezing the most out of his gags. Adopting a huge crisis scenario, Kawasaki crosses over into comic-book territory with an outlandish script involving a small-time unit attempting to save Japan from nuclear disaster thanks to the power of their own physical shortcomings. The order of events are so rudimentary that it’s not worth discussing any plot details, however The Rug Cop certainly doesn’t mess about when it comes to getting from A-B. This is a blisteringly paced comedy that has little time to stop and dwell on tedious detective duties; every little thing is built upon coincidence and cliché, enabling our rag-tag crew to move on to their next destination - from high schools to dark underground lairs - in typically corny fashion. But there’s still time for Kawasaki to throw in a few flashbacks care of the expository character Big Dick, in order to flesh out few of his players, none more so than our lead protagonist Genda, whose past has yet to catch up with him.
As timely as the pacing is though, the quality of the jokes is a little up and down. Much of what Kawasaki achieves here in parodying the detective drama is absolutely brilliant: a scene in which the cops discuss their next plan of action and simply decide to “wait around” for clues by literally standing in their office while the clock ticks away for 30 seconds or so is apt in its delivery, as is the extremists’ serious tape message that culminates in a far-from-perfect manner as the speaker comes down with sudden allergies. Kawasaki never stops undermining the urgency of a situation with silly humour; even moments of poignancy such as the obligatory main character theme song (as sung by Moto Fuyuki), which pays homage to just about every Japanese exploitation and action film of the seventies are made laughable by the fact that the centrepiece of the film is after all a toupee. There’s even a perfectly staged training montage in which Genda learns to harness the power of his wig (the plot-device incidentally inspired by Sentai show Ultra-Seven). But for every sly and witty gag there’s a lowbrow one to follow. Co-writer Takao Nakano is no stranger to small-budget cinema himself. In fact as a purveyor of, well, pervy-ness he’s churned out a few memorable V-Cinema titles as director and screenwriter, such as Killer Pussy, Sumo Vixens and The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai (Dir. Mitsuru Meike); a year prior to The Rug Cop he had also collaborated with Kawasaki on Kabuto-O Beetle. It seems then that he’s probably to thank for the gratuitous panty shots and spurring on Iijiri Okada’s Big Dick creation with his penis-lightsaber. There’s nothing especially wrong with this mix of humour, but by the time the film reaches the half-way mark it seems to place an awful lot of faith in the latter. As it throws itself into auto-pilot the gags set up earlier wind up becoming too predictable and a little worn out by the time the film reaches its conclusion in a fit of character hysterics. It’s a bit of a shame on account of earlier displays of inventiveness, such as the aforementioned highlights and a wonderful introductory opening featuring a bizarre hostage situation involving a ventriloquist.
But as with most of Kawasaki’s features to date it’s the cast that seem to take most of the top honours. While The Rug Cop isn’t played as totally straight as the director’s former efforts it does hover on the brink between serious and tongue-in-cheek. Moto Fuyuki is delightful as the middle-aged “Det. Rug” in balancing his emotions of self-pity and determination for his work, but every moment we watch him throw his projectile hairpiece at crooks serves to remind us that the events we’re witnessing are nothing short of utterly ridiculous. And while the supporting players are plentiful and little more than caricatures they still bounce off of each other tremendously well and lap up their own strange quirks. Kudos to Minoru Kawasaki who always manages to gather wonderful ensembles for his zany little outings.
Presented anamorphically at 1.85:1 The Rug Cop has a nice looking transfer, though it’s not quite up there with Executive Koala’s. In comparison it’s notably softer, aliasing is a tad heavier and contrast a little higher (especially evident in sunny outdoor shots), but it’s stable, with a perfect colour balance, a solid amount of detail nonetheless and no signs of compression artefacts.
Likewise the Japanese DD2.0 track is perfectly fine. Obviously it doesn’t do anything to give anyone’s system a thorough workout, but it presents clear dialogue and effects, with no noticeable distortion.
Optional English subtitles are provided and these offer a well-timed translation with no obvious flaws.
As with Executive Koala the biggest feature on the disc is a Making Of, running in the region of thirty minutes. And like Executive Koala it briefly covers each day of the impressive seven day shoot. This takes us through the usual behind-the-scenes gubbins: the purification ceremony; actor read-throughs and introductions; mini interviews and all round having a blast. Certainly Kawasaki’s sets always seem to be filled with joy as everybody involved wholeheartedly gets into the spirit of things, not quite believing that they’re getting paid to arse around. That’s not to say they don’t take things seriously, as it’s obvious they’re giving their respective roles 100%. There’s a few good laughs to be had, and the general comradery shared between all is sweet.
Next up is Press Conference. At around eight minutes in length it covers no more than most similar pieces do. The actors are asked to discuss their characters and how they ended up working for Kawasaki, while the director himself explains where the inspiration for the film came from. There’s some subsequent footage of the press shoot and a look at the premiere, where the cast show up once more to oblige the audience.
Intro by Cast and Director runs for fifteen minutes and was specially recorded for the original Japanese DVD release. This features all of the principle cast members reminisce about working on the film, in addition to talking through their characters once more. It offers some very frank opinions and it’s nice to see those involved address certain issues in regards to the current state of Japanese cinema. Everyone here knows that they made nothing more than an unashamed, silly movie, but that every once in a while such things need to be done. Kawasaki offers some nice titbits as he explains more about the Japanese TV shows and films which inspired his film, and he reveals his hopes for a television series continuing the adventures of Detective Rug.
Rounding off the extra features is the original trailer.
The Rug Cop is most certainly a lot of fun, even if it lacks a bit of variety. While it starts off strongly it does run out of steam by the end, but there are still some thoroughly excellent moments to be had and the performances are absolutely wonderful throughout. I do hope that Minoru Kawasaki manages to film his sequel, or better still a television series, as it’s referenced several times during the bonus material and clearly the entire cast want to return and act like crazy fools once more.