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Review: TOP KNOT DETECTIVE (2017) – Boston Underground Film Festival

The story of how the bottom of the barrel Japanese samurai show Ronin Suirai Tantei (Deductive Reasoning Ronin) became a cult hit in 90s Australia, TOP KNOT DETECTIVE tells a tale that sounds too absurd to be true. Probably because it isn’t. Writer/directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce have created an incredibly detailed and well-researched film about a show that never was.

TOP KNOT DETECTIVE starts with a series of events that are plausible enough on their own but put together are so unlikely they sound like a story whipped up by an old-school press agent. Takashi Takamoto, (Toshi Okuzaki) a semi-talented but overly egotistical cog in the Japanese corporate entertainment scene, finds himself in the right place at the right time.

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The huge Sutaffu corporation wants to get into the TV business, and Takashi gets the call. He becomes the star, writer, director, and editor of the title show, about a samurai seeking revenge for his master’s murder. The only problem is, he has no talent or idea what he’s doing. Things only get worse when it becomes a hit.

I have to admit, I was expecting something in the vein of THIS IS SPINAL TAP from its description. But TOP KNOT DETECTIVE is played admirably straight. It starts with a well-researched walk through Japanese culture and its entertainment industry. Building a believable foundation makes what’s to come much more acceptable. And what we get is a savage take on fame, badly behaved celebrities and fandom. Not to mention the wandering samurai genre.

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Although I said it’s played straight, TOP KNOT DETECTIVE does take its share of shots at its subjects that will make you grin. The bizarre twists the show’s plot takes trying to stay popular and promote Sutaffu’s products (a time-traveling baseball player, a monster that looks like a giant penis) are outlandish. But we’ve seen shows do just as odd things in real life. The outrageous scandals Takashi becomes involved with only boosting his popularity. Does the name Charlie Sheen ring any bells? And when it all blows up, the amount and extent of corporate ass-covering that goes on could be taken from today’s headlines.

Much like FURY OF THE DEMON and Peter Jackson’s FORGOTTEN SILVER, TOP KNOT DETECTIVE is a well constructed and convincingly told tale of film history that never happened. It’s just a much less serious story. TOP KNOT DETECTIVE is playing the Boston Underground Film Festival, March 24th.

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