If one talks about the 80s in Japan there is a big chance that the term “bubble period” or “bubble era” comes up. Concerning a time period of roughly 5 years at the end of the 1980s (1986-1991), the bubble period was a time in Japan where real estate and stock market prices were heavily inflated. It’s mostly known for its overheated economic activity and an absolute heyday for consumerism. People were living large, in a “bubble”, until it popped and formed an economic depression that would plague Japan for 20 years to come.
Abunai Deka, translated to Dangerous Cops, is a pure product of its time. Released in 1987 the film breathes the above-mentioned period, adding a sexy layer of the past. A television series of the same name preceded the film in 1986, which was a big hit. It resulted in another season of the show and produced 7 movie sequels, of which this is the first and of which the last chapter hit theaters in early 2016.
In this first cinematic adventure, we tag along with cop buddies Yuji Ooshita (played by Kyōhei Shibata) and Toshiki Takayama (played by Hiroshi Tachi) on one of their cases in Yokohama, a city situated right underneath Tokyo. It is the classic buddy cop flick formula, Japanese-style.
A small problem right of the bat is that the film makers have clearly made it with a target audience in mind: people who have seen the series. The preceding television show was a big hit and the film is clearly made with the thought that one has seen it. This results in almost no introduction to the characters and makes the film feel a bit like a long tv episode that you are just randomly thrown into. As someone who is new to Abunai Deka, this might feel a bit like a rush job, but one can argue it does help with keeping the pace and the film is still easily watchable as a standalone. Ooshita and Takayama are a fun duo and with their slick gelled up hair, sunglasses, classy suits and fast moves, they provide a lot of fun.
The plot isn`t really worth mentioning, as it is just a case concerning some evil man that has to be caught. What`s important is that it results in quite a few action scenes, which do entertain, but somehow fall just a tiny bit short. Just when you think the action is building up to a climax, it ends, moving on to the next scene. This is a shame, as both Shibata and Tachi seem to be actually doing a lot of their own stunt work (like Tachi jumping from a motorbike unto a moving truck), bringing an extra thrill to it all. The scenes are accompanied by a true periodic soundtrack of pop songs, strengthening the “bubble” setting and atmosphere. The songs do feel kind of randomly edited in at times, as if the producers were given a list of songs that had to be featured somewhere, not really mattering where.
So while the film certainly contains its misses, it doesn`t fail in being an entertaining adventure. In a world of big hair, shoulder pads, discos and bad guys that own art galleries, these two guys were the cool of cool; the cop heroes of their time. Shibata and Tachi are definitely what make it all work with their charming performances. It are the little moments that do it, like when Shibata`s character Ooshita starts dancing out of nowhere after stepping on an abandoned stage.
Standard cop buddy flick or not, Abunai Deka is an entertaining representation of an era lost in time, with Shibata and Tachi running and sliding on the screen chasing the bad guys. No wonder it was a bittersweet moment for the many fans to say goodbye to these two lovable characters, currently both pushing 70, in last year`s Saraba, Abunai Deka (literally translated: Farewell, Dangerous Cops). It surely means an ending to a cinematic ride that has lasted for 30 years. So if you are interested in a Japanese buddy cop film from the 1980s, you don`t have to look far to start right here where it all began.