Top Knot Detective (2016)

Posted in Reviews by - December 02, 2017
Top Knot Detective (2016)

Remarkably detailed Australian-made homage to bonkers Japanese television from the 1980s and 90s, filmed in the ‘mockumentary’ style of something like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace or Spinal Tap. This constantly blurs the line between truth and spoof, featuring input from real people like Dario Russo (creator of the similarly mad throwback comedy Danger 5), film writer Des Mangan (who also narrates the film), and vox pops with “fans” from Comic Con events, interspersed with actors playing characters who are also playing characters. Like the subject matter, its a bit of a head-spin, and at times the made-up narrative is so accurately portrayed that you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a genuine story. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at a short-lived, fictitious jidaigeki TV show called ‘Ronin Suiri Tentai’ (translated as ‘Deductive Reasoning Ronin’), but known affectionately by fans in the west as Top Knot Detective. It is described as a vanity project from a former pop singer turned filmmaker, called Takashi Takamoto (played by Toshi Okuzaki), and bankrolled by a huge corporation with vague links to organised crime. Takashi’s turbulent story is at the heart of the film, and its a story which takes a few surprisingly dramatic turns along the way. But the stand-out moments are the clips from the show, which are magnificent. Typically insane and surreal, and presented on “recovered” skuzzy VHS tapes, the show is a super low-budget riff on things like Power Rangers, Shogun Assassin, and the crazier end of animé; full of blood-spraying ninja, giant robots, exploding heads, gogo dancers, a walking dildo, time travel, product placement and musical numbers. This has clearly been a labour of love for its creators, Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce, and the film taps into a rich and successful seam of post-modern, nostalgic re-imaginings of cult TV shows and films (2015’s Kung Fury did a similar thing for 80s action movies). The interview elements are fine and provide context and exposition, but you almost feel that the TV show could exist independently from the rest of the movie and be a smash hit on its own terms, which would certainly take its meta premise to a whole new level. Sterling work.

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