Top Knot Detective
Directed by Dominic Pearce
Starring: Toshi Okuzaki, Masa Yamaguchi, Mayu Iwasaki.
To be fair, on the day, I didn’t even check the programme. I had originally intended to go out into the city to pick up something the day before from a shop, and then catch Becoming Bond after. Well got the time mixed up, stayed home instead, and do it tomorrow.
Well after doing said errand, I decided I’d want to at least see something on the Revelation Film Festival on an actual silver screen.
What I didn’t know was that I was tumbling straight into the big, opening launch, of a locally made feature that just somehow spun out of control, and found its way at festivals around the world.
This is Top Knot Detective fever, and my deductive reasoning skills were not the most sharp that night. Top Knot Detective is a mockumentary, although when Australia’s foremost resident expert in obscure cult films (Andrew Riewoldt, who flew in from Brisbane just to do the formal introduction) was fooled for a good ten minutes before realizing it, then it may as well have been real.
The film, made by Dominic Pearce and Aaron McCann, explores the explosive, scandalous and tantalizing story behind the scenes of a once-big show in Japan- Ronin Suirei Tantei (trans. Deductive Reasoning Ronin / Detective Detective Ronin), which became popular in the West, enrapturing, a small hardcore fanbase, including well-known names like cult movie expert Des Mangan (from SBS), and Travis Johnson (FilmInk), as well as a cameo from Lee Lin Chin amongst others. The central concept behind this film-within-a-film is that a wandering ronin, named Detective Sheimasu, goes on adventures across the land solving cases, whilst attempting to one day defeat his rival Kurosaki, who murdered Sheimasu’s master. These adventures has the titular hero fight phallic monsters, tentacle monsters, giant mecha robots, resisting the temptations of luscious maidens as well as shilling poor quality consumer products for the (fictitious) company that funds it.
Top Knot Detective peers back into a realm of nostalgia, where objectively bad films with poor dubbing and massive continuity errors are simply edited away- the old adage is of it’s so bad that it’s good comes to mind, whilst telling a coherent story about a larger than life character’s spectacular rise to stardom, and his equally spectacular fall.
First thing first, if you are taking this movie seriously, this isn’t the movie for you- nothing here makes any logical sense, neither is it meant to be, and a lot of comedy relies on a basic working of knowledge of obscure, cult cinema (it gets better if you’re even more familiar with shows like Monkey Magic or Shogun Assassin that inspired the making of this mockumentary) and Japanese pop culture and media, especially the tokusatsu (tv shows with lots of special effects, often featuring big giant monsters and/or giant mecha) and the jidaigeki genre (historical period dramas depicting samurai usually revolving around themes of honour, love and revenge). But it’s really fine if you don’t as this film functions as a crash course into that weird, wonderful world.
Director: Ben Wheatley (Screen play by Amy Jump)
Starring: Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Noah Taylor, Sam Riley (and others)
To cap of a night of popcorn movies, I decided to stick around and catch Free Fire, which is a title that shoots straight at what the film. Free Fire follows two groups of scoundrels trying to sort out an arms deal- one across the pond needing to buy guns for the Irish Republican cause, and the other being arms dealers- the deal goes extremely bad when two criminals from each side get into a fight over a completely unrelated issue, and soon enough someone fires the first shot- and all bets are off.
Free Fire is 75 minutes worth of non-stop gunfighting- such a movie will only have a truly limited appeal, but for those who love dumb action movies- this is as dumb as it gets. Much of the film’s plot is driven forward by each combatants jockeying for position, and sudden new developments in an already chaotic situation. Most of the dialogue in this film is the characters delivering insults to one another whilst shooting at each other, and there’s plenty to be had in laughs here. The film is unique in that it barely uses any musical cues- nearly 100 per cent of the sounds is gunshots, the ricochet of gunshots, and the thundering echo of aforementioned shooting. The choice of setting the movie in the 1970s, is entirely seeming like an aesthetic excuse to put in some extremely garish suits, spiffy haircuts and outrageous accents which adds to the comic absurdity.
Free Fire is fun, but not as much as you would expect from a movie that expends a lot of ammunition from start to finish, but let’s be honest- if you’re watching this movie, you aren’t exactly looking to learn about existentialism at that moment.