Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 27th, 2004
Theatrical Release Date: Japan, April 26th, 1975
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Writer: Kazuo Kasahara
Cast: Seizo Fukumoto, Nobuo Kaneko, Yôko Koizumi, Hiroki Matsukata, Bunta Sugawara
DVD Released: 2002
Approximate Running Time: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Eureka Video
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL
Retail Price: $24.95
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.
Cops vs. Thugs, is presented in an anamorphic widescreen that retains the films original 2.35:1 scope aspect ratio. The image is soft and it lacks detail through out. There is some minor print damage in the form of scratches. There is also some noticeable artifacts and grain, still nothing so drastic to disrupt the flow of the movie. Even though Cops vs. Thugs looks better then Eureka’s other Kinji Fukasaku DVD’s it still looks like they used a VHS source instead of a print.
The only audio option included for this release is the films original Japanese audio track presented in a Dolby Digital mono. Considering the age of the film and condition of this DVD’s transfer this audio track is clear and free of any distortion or noise. English subtitles have been included that are easy to read and follow. Extra wise this is essentially a bare bones release that includes the following extras a director’s profile and a photo gallery that contains black and white promo stills from the film.
It is a shame that Eureka has neglected to include any extras for this even though it is one of Fukasaku’s best films. It makes me wonder why they even released this film at all considering the sup par audio/video presentation and lack of extras. Cops vs. Thugs can also be purchased with Japan Organized Crime Boss and Graveyard of Honor via Eureka’s Kinji Fukasaku Yakuza triple pack #2 which sells for not that much more then each of these films sells on their own. Cops vs. Thugs is another stellar production from Kinji Fukasaku and it would be hard for me to recommend Eureka’s DVD. This DVD is worth at least a rental until a better version comes along.