Review: Cops vs Thugs
Blu-ray & DVD: Cops vs Thugs (1975)
In 1963 Japan, a fragile peace exists between two rival Yakuza gangs that is overseen by hard boiled cop Kuno (Bunta Sugawara). Kuno is friends with gang leader Kenji (Hiroki Matsukata) and they often share information which is mutually beneficial to help keep the status quo. As you would expect, it’s not long before violence erupts between the gangs, and Kuno has to question the loyalty to his friend or the organisation he serves.
It’s fair to say that by the time Cops Vs Thugs was released in 1975, director Kinji Fukasaku was already well versed with Yakuza and crime genre movies, with releases such as New Battles without Honour and Humanity, and Police Tactics released the previous year. In fact, Fukasaku was a prolific director making sometimes more than one movie a year until his death in 2003. It wasn’t until I started looking into Cops Vs Thugs that I discovered he also directed the excellent Battle Royale.
The movie is stylishly shot with excellent use of black and white flashbacks which add depth to the often frenetic action. In fact the pace of the movie is sometimes a bit too fast and furious, and it can be a little difficult to tell who is doing what to whom.
Cops Vs Thugs is often brutally violent. The film includes an infamous police interrogation scene, which, according to the extras was a little too real, and the poor actor being grilled was literally left black and blue.
I enjoyed Cops Vs Thugs and felt that it told an interesting story about how the lines between friendship and loyalty are often blurred. As you would expect there is lots of growling and shouting but, the central performances from Hiroki Matsukata and especially Bunta Sugawara are excellent.
If like me you haven’t seen any of Kinji Fukasaku’s other Yakuza movies, then I believe that Cops Vs Thugs is a good place to start and from what I understand, is one of his most celebrated movies. It’s also worth mentioning that it has one of the funkiest scores that I have ever heard and it had my hips swinging from side to side.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original uncompressed mono audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs, a new video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane
• A new visual essay on cops & criminals in Fukasaku’s works by film scholar Tom Mes
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ian MacEwan
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