Written by: Michael Den Boer on November 27th, 2004
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
DVD Released: 2002
Approximate Running Time: 101 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono Japanese
DVD Release: Eureka Video
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
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 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 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 Kinji 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. Though Cops vs Thugs is another stellar production from Kinji Fukasaku, 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.