When I was growing up in Asia, knock-offs were a fixture of daily life. Go to a shopping center and the big department stores on the top would have the legit products while the smaller retail shops, on the floors just below them, had the cheap, copyright-violating imitations. We’re talking about “Sonny” wristwatches and VHS copies of Cyborg (the Van Damme movie) labeled "Terminator 3" to trick the gullible. My favorites had to be the absurdly illegal Game Gear packs that squeezed 40 games into one cartridge and changed the titles willy-nilly (Ninja Star instead of Ninja Gaiden, Fight Street instead of Streets of Rage, etc.) as if doing so might actually make a difference if there was ever prosecution.
This was in the early 90s, so I can’t vouch for how that last facet of the “gray market” has evolved along with games’ exponentially-higher memory sizes. What’s funny, though, is that Future Cops came out in ‘93, so it was right in the thick of that “era.” And it feels much more like those knock-offs’ equivalent-in-video than any of the already-infamous Turkish superhero movies.
Feel it for yourself...
Of all the flicks I’ve ever featured in this column, Future Cops might be the hardest to synopsize because… well… I’m still not sure what the hell it’s about. If there ever were a flick to watch with your pals (in whatever state of mind suits you) and have some copious guffaws over how genuinely nonsensical it is; good lord, it’s Future Cops. And it makes even less sense if you have even a base familiarity with the Street Fighter games.
See if you can keep up. In the year 2043, M. Bison gets arrested in a factory by a law enforcement unit - - on flying scooters - - that includes wacky approximations of Ryu, Guile, Vega and Dhalsim. After a judge issues his prison sentence, Bison orders his evil subordinates Ken, Sagat and E. Honda to go back to ‘93 and brainwash (and/or assassinate, it's not quite clear in the subtitling) that judge before he ever even starts his career. Somehow, the thought of just asking his cronies to break him out of prison never crosses his mind. Regardless of the logic, the bad guys go to the past/present, and the good guys follow with the intention of stopping them.
Then, for about 20 minutes, the movie turns into a cheeky high school comedy with no discernible connection to what you’ve just watched. Seriously, you’ll swear you’ve changed channels unwittingly. Anyway, later on, the future cops and future crooks somehow get involved in the suburban hijinks and people start randomly turning into Blanka and Chun-Li to round out the roster. One guy turns into Goku of Dragon Ball Z, as well, and then a couple goes on a date inside the world of Super Mario Brothers 3, seemingly just for the sake of breaking as many copyright laws as possible in 90 minutes.
Trademark violation is truly the salient theme of Future Cops. As you’ve likely surmised, this isn’t an authorized adaptation of Capcom’s character like the Van Damme movie from a year later. It’s a renegade production, much like Nosferatu (I can’t believe the two can actually be grouped together but, yes, they can) which barely gets away with IP infringement by hastily switching names up. Thus, Ken becomes “Kent,” E. Honda becomes “Toyota,” Guile becomes “Broom Man,” and so on. Maybe Wong Jing, the director, had the same playbook as the small-time operators who made the 40-in-1 cartridges...
On one level, this is a bizarre counterpoint to put the faithfulness of the official Street Fighter movies into perspective. On another level, it’s likely the most elaborate examples of outsider art I’ve ever encountered. Wong Jing is (somewhat affectionately?) referred to the as “the King of Crappy Cinema” in Hong Kong and maybe Future Cops is better understood as the HK equivalent of quick, lowest denominator spoofs like Epic Movie and Vampires Suck, et al. On the third hand (and that wouldn't be too strange here,) there's honestly something inspired about a "lo-fi" production with the resourcefulness to swap a beach ball in for Blanka to convey the illusion of his famous cannonball attack. I couldn't resist the manic absurdity of this pop culture fever dream, myself, and I think this last, extended clip will bring you over to my point of view...
Check out some previous "Weirdies" below...
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Videodrome
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Holy Mountain
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Bubba Ho-Tep
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Santa Claus
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Moonwalker
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Meet the Feebles
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Being John Malkovich
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Death Race 2000
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: A Scanner Darkly
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Buckaroo Banzai
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Twelve Monkeys
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Dark City
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Yellow Submarine
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Shadow of the Vampire
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Return to Oz
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Koyaanisqatsi
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Erik the Viking
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Altered States
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Repo Man
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Peanut Butter Solution
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Toxic Avenger
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Begotten
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Fantastic Planet
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Plague Dogs
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Nam's Angels/the Losers
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Willard
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: The Ultimate Warrior/Jake the Snake Vignettes
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Schwarzenegger's Insane Japanese Ads
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
- WELCOME TO WEIRD: City of Lost Children