Written by: Michael Den Boer on May 13th, 2017
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, April 26th, 1975
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kazuo Kasahara
Cast: Bunta Sugawara, Tatsuo Umemiya, Hiroki Matsukata, Mikio Narita, Nobuo Kaneko, Shingo Yamashiro, Seizô Fukumoto, Reiko Ike
BluRay released: May 22nd, 2017 (UK), May 23rd, 2017 (USA)
Approximate running time: 101 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK), NR (USA)
Sound: LPCM Mono Japanese
BluRay Release: Arrow Video USA
Region Coding: Region A,B / Region 1,2 NTSC
Retail Price: $39.95 (USA) / £17.99 (UK)
Synopsis: Over the last seven years the police have spent most of their time getting rid of all the Yakuza gangs. There are two hold outs gangs Ohara and Kawade. Ever since the Ohara clans’ leader was sent to prison they have lacked sense of direction which has led to the recent attacks from the rival Kawade clan. Kuno has his own idea on how to keep the gangs under control and when one of his superiors decides a new plan of action everything starts to fall apart.
Kinji Fukasaku is a director who is not afraid to take chances and experiment. He reached the height of his creativity during the 1970’s, while working as a program director of primarily yakuza films. By the time, he came to making Cops vs Thugs. He had redefined the yakuza film and then some.
Content wise, Cops vs Thugs is one of Kinji Fukasaku’s crazier films. At the heart of the film is an exploration of how both cops and criminals are bound by rules that are rooted in honor. And right from the get go this film makes it known that there is no distinction between the cops and the criminals. This blurring of the line of morality furthers enhances the themes explored in this film.
The entire cast are all very good in their respective roles. With this film standout performance being Bunta Sugawara (Battles Without Honor And Humanity) in the role of a detective named Kuno, whose friendship with Kenji Hirotani a prominent member of a yakuza clan leads to his own demise. Performance wise he perfectly captures the essence of the character Kuno as he balances the moments of calm with the character’s outbursts.
Other notable performance includes, Hiroki Matsukata (Blackmail is my Life) who delivers an utterly convincing performance in the role of Kenji Hirotani, a short fused Yakuza who takes no prisoners in his quest for power and Reiko Ike (Sex and Fury) in the role of a nightclub hostess named Mariko.
It is astonishing just how much depth Kinji Fukasaku is able to inject into his films from this period, when films were supposed to make a certain way that often hampered many of his contemporaries. And directing wise Kinji Fukasaku is in top form, as he exploits all the techniques that he is best known for like the use of black and white photography during flashbacks and freeze frames to emphasize the importance of the scene. Another strength of this film is composer Toshiaki Tsushima’s solid score that is at times reminiscent of his scores the Street Fighter films.
Cops vs Thugs comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This HD transfer used for this release were created from original preservations elements that were supplied by Toei. And when compared to previous home video releases from Eureka Video and Kino Video, this new transfers shows vast improvements in regards to image clarity and color saturation.
This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included with this release. There are no issues with background noise or distortion and dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Range wise the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack are well represented and when it comes to film’s score its sounds appropriately robust.
Extras for this release include, a trailer for the film (3 minutes 16 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), Archival Behind the Scenes Footage (4 minutes 59 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles), a visual essay with film critic Tom Mes titled All Under the Gun (13 minutes 38 seconds) and an interview with Kinji Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane titled Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs (9 minutes 12 seconds, in Japanese with English subtitles).
The extra titled Archival Behind the Scenes Footage includes onset comments from director Kinji Fukasaku who discusses his use of violence in his films. And this extra also includes rehearsal footage from an interrogation scene.
The extra titled All Under the Gun is an insightful discussion about the line that Kinji Fukasaku blurs between cops and the yakuza in his crime films. Besides Cops vs Thugs, various other crimes films also directed by Kinji Fukasaku are discussed in depth.
Topics discussed in the extra titled Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs include, screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara and how the genesis of Cops vs Thugs evolved from material that was left over from his research for Battles Without Honor And Humanity, his thoughts about key moments, how the actor in the infamous interrogation scene asked to be beaten for real to make the scene look more believable, Kinji Fukasaku’s process as a filmmaker and his thoughts about Cops vs Thugs.
Rounding out the extras is a reversible cover art and a twenty-four-page booklet with a dedication to actor Hiroki Matsukata, cast and crew information, an essay titled True Crimes: Behind the Scenes of Cops vs Thugs written by Patrick Macias and information about the transfer.
Also, included with this release is a DVD that has the same content included on the Blu-Ray included as part of this combo. Overall Cops vs Thugs gets an exceptional release from Arrow Video, highly recommended.