Written by: Michael Den Boer on April 17th, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, 1975
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kazuo Kasahara
Cast: Seizo Fukumoto, Nobuo Kaneko, Yôko Koizumi, Hiroki Matsukata, Bunta Sugawara
DVD released: June 27th, 2006
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Kino Video
Region Coding: Region 1 NTSC
Retail Price: $14.95
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.
Kino Video’s 2006 DVD release of Cops vs Thugs while not as pristine as their DVD release for Yakuza Graveyard it is a huge improvement over Eureka’s 2002 DVD release which suffers from many of the same problems that plagued their Yakuza Graveyard DVD. Kino Video presents Cops vs Thugs in an anamorphic widescreen that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors, flesh tones and black levels fare well all around. There are some minor instances when the image on the Kino DVD release looks too soft. The only misstep for the Kino DVD release is that it is not flagged for progressive playback (The Eureka DVD release is also interlaced).
The Kino DVD release comes with one audio option a Dolby Digital mono mix in Japanese and removable English subtitles have been included. The audio is clean, clear and balanced. The subtitles are easy to read and error free. When compared to the Eureka audio track, the audio track on the Kino release is in the better shape of the two.
Extras for the Kino DVD release include trailers for Cops vs Thugs (3 minutes 13 seconds) and Yakuza Graveyard (3 minutes 5 seconds), one poster image and a DVD insert with replica poster. Extras for the Eureka DVD release include a brief overview of Kinji Fukasku’s career is presented in text form and a photo gallery that contains ten black and white promo stills from the film. Overall Kino Video’s DVD release is substantially better then the Eureka DVD release.