Cops VS Thugs Blu-Ray Review

| May 23, 2017

Cops VS Thugs is another masterpiece from filmmaker Kinji Fukusaku and the folks at Arrow Video have done an amazing job to re-release this in the U.S. Created a few years after the series, Cops VS Thugs follows two characters, in particular, Detective Kuno, played by the legendary Bunta Sugawara and Yakuza leader Kenji Hirotani, played by Hiroki Matsukata, who recently passed away this year. Detective Kuno is a crooked cop, who lets Hirotani does as he pleases, as long as things never get too out of control. When Hirotani decides to use this relationship as leverage to amass a deal that would give the gang a substantial amount of land and profit, another rival gang starts a war. When things get out of control, Detective Kuno is forced into a dilemma, does he keep the peace and stop the war, or does he side with Hirotani to maintain their sense of brotherhood?

Screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara decided to write the screenplay of Cops VS Thugs, after doing a bunch of research for writing the Battles series. He came across a story of a cop and a yakuza boss working together in a small town and decided that it would be nice to explore how a relationship like this could exist. The end result is an engaging study of brotherhood, crime, and solidarity in 1970’s Japan. While much of the typical result is a standard yakuza picture from Fukusaku and company, the strength of the film relies solely on Sugawara and Matsukata’s portrayals of these two characters. Both actors have done a fine job in previous efforts, but there’s something about the fact that they play on both sides of the law and the Shakespearean tragedy aspect of two men who would be bound in brotherhood, ultimately cannot elevates Cops VS Thugs into something else entirely.

The Arrow Video treatment is in solid form on this release of Cops VS Thugs and it is most definitely from the previous Kino Video release. On the visual front, the film is presented in a 1080p, AVC encoded MP4 transfer, with an aspect ratio of 2.36:1. The film’s initial source from Toei for the release seems as if was a solid transfer, but the film doesn’t look as pristine as the release of the Battles series from Arrow. The film’s overall look is pretty drab, leaning more towards earthy tones in characters suits, cars, and locales. With this being stated, the film retains a solid grain structure and truly feels as if you were watching a decent print of the film, which adds to the enjoyment of it. The audio in the film is presented in a Japanese LPCM 2.0 Mono track. Clarity is just fine in the mix, with levels being solid at presenting effects, dialog, music, and ambiance all simultaneously. There are times where the jazzy score by Toshiaki Tsushima can get a bit louder than all of the other elements, but overall the audio is pretty solid.

As far as extras go, Cops VS Thugs contains an interview with Fukusaku biographer Sadao Yamane, an archival interview with Fukusaku and a new visual essay by Tom Mes, exploring the shades of gray that exists in the director’s filmography and a trailer. The interview with Fukusaku has been released on previous releases of Fukusaku’s films, but the video essay and the interview with Sadao Yamane are informative and welcomed on this release.

Sure, Kinji Fukusaku may have shown the themes loyalty in many of his other films, but none are like Cops VS Thugs, which should be part of anyone’s collection that adores Yakuza cinema. Highly Recommended!

About the Author:

is a graduate from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in Audio for Visual Media. He works as a freelance location sound mixer, boom operator, sound designer, and writer in his native Chicago. He's an avid collector of films, comics, and anime.
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