New York Cop

Director: Toru Murakawa                     
Toru Nakamura, Chad Mcqueen, Mira Sorvino

New York Cop. Say that out loud a few times. New York Cop, New York Cop. Sounds kind of bland or generic, doesn't it? In fact, the movie itself suffers both from blandness and elements much familiar to viewers. I suppose that if you were in a pinch, and you had nothing better to do, the Japanese-made New York Cop might help to pass the time for 88 minutes or so. But I doubt that you would find yourself in that position with the average video store stocking hundreds of other movies.

The opening credits claim that this is based on a true story ("New York Undercover Cop", by Jiro Ueno). I very much suspect that most, if not all, what happens in this movie didn't actually take place. Take the opening scene, where Toshi (Nakamura) is sitting in a subway station. A young black man (carrying a portable stereo on his shoulder and struttin' along) walks up to Toshi and in an overdone black accent says, "Hey f**k, got any money?" A few minutes later, the black man mugs someone, and Toshi runs after him in hot pursuit, shooting him. Then in the very next scene, Toshi is at the police station with some higher-ups. Is he being reviewed for the shooting, which is standard for all cops whenever they fire a gun? No, the first thing they say is, "We need you to go undercover. You're Japanese! They'll never suspect we're using a Japanese as an undercover agent." What the...? What about the shooting? Go undercover where? Go undercover with who? Is Toshi from Japan, or is Japanese-American? None of these questions are answered at this point. Oh, some do get answered eventually, but by then more questions like these have popped up.

I'd have to say Toshi is Japanese, or else he had a very sheltered childhood living up in America. That's mainly due to the fact that actor Toru Nakamura just can't pronounce English well. Not only is it hard to understand what he's saying sometimes, the fact that he's struggling to get his accent right means he has no time to put any emotion into his performance. He tries to put in a little zip for his character with a few martial arts sequences, which are believable though not exciting in a Jackie Chan fashion. Overall, though, he just struggles with his accent and going through the physical motions of American action stars.

After the discussion previously stated, a fellow cop (who's Jamaican) goes up to Toshi and says, "Hey hey looked troubled, mon! Wanna go to a sushi bar?" This is yet another example of the racism that frequently appears in Japanese movies. Although the Japanese have (rightly so) protested racism against the Japanese in American films, they also need to take a deep look at the portrayal of certain ethnic groups in their own movies. Also, New York Cop not only suffers from racism, but of general stereotypes. For example, an encounter with a biker gang portrays all the members of the gang as people who just blurt out insults and racist remarks. Granted, bikers are pretty predictable in their behavior, but did the filmmakers have to choose the easiest way to portray them?

Eventually, Toshi finds someone that looks suspicious enough to choose to go undercover at. That's how it pretty much comes across, since there isn't much explanation about who or what Toshi is investigating. The gang he joins up with is run by Hawk, played by McQueen who isn't bad under the circumstances. As Hawk and Toshi become more trusting of each other, their (professional) relationship infuriates Hawk's assistant Tito, who keeps blurting throughout the movie "I don't trust that guy! Etc." These statements are spread out between endless scenes of Toshi contacting his police superiors secretly and the occasional "action" scene, the "best" one being a car/motorcycle chase with the drivers speeding at about 30 m.p.h. . Eventually, Toshi's cover is blown, leading to feelings between Toshi and Hawk (no, you perverts, not those kind of feelings) that make absolutely no sense. My guess is that director Toru Murakawa was trying to make a kind of gangster relationship a la John Woo, but ends up just being silly.

Oh yes, there's future Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino in a supporting role. She plays the role of Hawk's sister Maria, who picks up and saves Toshi from a band of stereotyped Hispanic muggers, despite the fact that it would be insane to imagine a single woman in New York City letting into her car a total stranger. The purpose of her role seems to be (1) to introduce Toshi to Hawk, and (2) to let there be inserted a totally gratuitous sex scene with the hero. Hey, fair's fair - there have been countless films where a Caucasian hero gets it on with an Asian woman, so why not have it the other way around for a change? So they are in love, but she is put aside until the end, where she is quite willing to continue the relationship but...he doesn't. Why? I suppose it's because a lot of other action movies have the loner hero continuing on with his work with no room for a relationship. But it doesn't make any sense here, for Toshi previously seemed too interested in her to stop everything. They took all the clichés from action movies, but the filmmakers didn't know how to put them together - or even how to pull them off well. This movie goes to show that foreigners can make movies just as bad as Americans. Considering that we are supposedly "privileged" to have the bad foreign movies filtered out before foreign films come to North America, a film like New York Cop can't help but make me wonder just how bad the worst foreign films get.

UPDATE: Michael Prymula sent this in:

"In this film you were wondering about why the film seems to jump ahead so abruptly, well on IMDB the US version is listed as the cut version, whereas the Japanese one clocks in at 93 minutes, meaning a whole 5 minutes were trimmed for the US release, and I'm pretty sure important continuity related material was most likely cut from the film."

Check for availability on Amazon (DVD)

See also: Keaton's Cop, Stoner, One Man Jury