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 lead 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. Cops Vs Thugs is even by Fukasaku standards one of his craziest films of his career as he explores how both Cops and Thugs are bound by set rules and honor. Fukasaku early on in the film shows the viewer that there is no difference between criminals and the law which is helps ads to this film’s chaotic backdrop.
Bunta Sugawara plays detective Kuno who is a cross between Dirty Harry’s Harry Callahan and Death Wish’s Paul Kersey. Sugawara was one of Fukasaku’s most frequent leading men starring as a police officer this time around instead of a yakuza thug. Sugawara perfectly captures the essence of the character Kuno as he balances the moments of calm with the characters outbursts. Directing wise Fukasaku is in top form as he exploits all the techniques he is best for like the use of black and white photography during flashbacks and freeze frames to emphasize the importance of the scene. Toshiaki Tsushima another frequent collaborator of Fukasaku composed another solid score that reminiscent of his score the Street Fighter films. It is astonishing just how much depth Fukasaku is able to inject into his films from this period when films were supposed to make a certain way. He was one of a handful of directors who decided to push the boundaries of genre filmmaking drastically changing it forever.
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.