Toshi (Tôru Nakamura) is a tough New York cop who is assigned to work undercover in the East Village because, according to his boss, no one will suspect that a Japanese man is actually a cop. Disguising himself as a homeless gambling addict who has connections with the Tongs, Toshi infiltrates the Brotherhood. He becomes friends with the gang’s leader, Hawk (Chad McQueen), and he even falls in love with Hawk’s sister, Maria (Mira Sorvino!). Hawk is buying guns from a mobster named Mr. C (Tony Sirico!!) and Mr. C’s main assassin, Ferrara (Andreas Kastsulas), is driving around New York in a taxi cab and killing undercovers. Can Toshi take down Mr. C without compromising his relationship with Maria and revealing that he’s actually an undercover cop? The short answer is no.
New York Cop works best when it focuses on action. Tôru Nakamura is convincing in the fight scenes but he’s less convincing whenever he has to show emotion or have a conversation with anyone. The idea that the NYPD would send a Japanese cop undercover to infiltrate a Hispanic gang never makes makes much sense, as Toshi himself points out when the idea is first brought up. Toshi never makes much of an effort to disguise the fact that he is a cop, which makes Hawk look incredibly stupid for not seeing through him. The main appeal for most people will probably be the chance to see Tony Sirico and Mira Sorvino in early roles. Sirico, the former gangster-turned-actor, is convincing as Mr. C and gets all of the film’s best lines. As for Mira Sorvino, this was only her second or third film role and the script doesn’t give her much to work with. There are a few scenes where she gets to bring some genuine New York attitude to her character, telling off both her brother and Toshi. But otherwise, there’s little about her performance that suggests the actress that she would become. Fortunately, films like Barcelona and Sweet Nothing were right around the corner.
As far as New York cops go, nothing has yet to beat the episode of Barney Miller where Christopher Lloyd vandalizes the station house.