If you were growing up in Australia in the nineties, odds are you probably sat down and watched SBS late on a Saturday night. Wedged between Iron Chef and an episode of Eat Carpet, you would no doubt have found a show not too dissimilar to Top Knot Detective. Known in its home country of Japan as Ronin Suirai Tantei, Top Knot Detective is a vessel for series creator Takashi Takamoto (Toshi Okuzaki) to flex his directing, acting and writing muscles – amongst a bunch of other things.
Part Peter Jackson’s Forgotten Silver, part Monkey Magic, part Takashi Miike – Top Knot Detective is 100% hilarious. Footage is hobbled together from old VHS tapes, with interviews peppered in between to tell Takamoto’s story. Top Knot Detective is written and directed by local Perth legends Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce (Aaron was half of the team behind this viral hit). Anyone who has followed McCann and Pearce’s work over the past years, can no doubt attest to the desire to see them tackle a feature length film. The move from short films to a full 90 minute feature is seamless. This is the feature length arrival of a great new talent.
The insane violent comedy from the shorts translates perfectly to the insane samurai action here. There’s a real affection for the genre, as well as a love for Japan as a country. The mostly Japanese cast is supported by smattering Australian film titans – Travis Johnson (Filmink), Lee Lin Chin, and narrating the whole endeavour, SBS cult movies’ Des Mangan – whose presence further adds to the mythology of Top Knot Detective. As this is being shown on SBS2, Des Mangan’s presence adds a heck of a lot to the authenticity on display. If Lee Lin Chin’s cameo wasn’t enough, there’s even the trademarked yellow subtitles.
Not only is Top Knot Detective a truly hilarious piece of work, but it presents a TV show (among other things as well) that you genuinely wish existed. The desire to showcase a funny story is buoyed by the added desire to tell a relatable and believable story. Too often with these kinds of films, the story reaches a point where the real world disappears and hyper-fantasy takes over. While that does sometimes work, the human story of Takashi Takamoto’s rise and fall is more relatable and surprisingly has a bit of an emotional kick at the end as well.
Full of timeless quotes – ‘deductive reasoning’ being the killer line -, exciting action and great characters, as well as having a brilliant post credits scene; Top Knot Detective is the comedy film that Australia deserves. Created thanks to SBS’s 2015 Comedy Runway initiative, Top Knot Detective kicks the door down and smashes in the faces of anyone who watches it. Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce’s next film can’t come soon enough. Now, when will the My Little Italian Stallions documentary hit SBS2?
Directors: Aaron McCann, Dominic Pearce
Cast: Toshi Okuzaki, Denis Mangan, Mayu Iwasaki
Writers: Aaron McCann, Dominic Pearce