17 May 2017 | gavin6942
Cops vs Thugs: Better Than the Title Implies
Acting boss Hirotani (Hiroki Matsukata) of the Ohara gang uses his friendship with corrupt cop Kuno (Bunta Sugawara) to usurp a staged land deal that rival yakuza gang Kawade had arranged through local politicians. Open warfare erupts between the two gangs.
By 1975, Kinji Fukasaku had made more than 30 films, most if not all of this daunting number in the Toei studio system. Returning to the screen after completing their "Battles Without Honor and Humanity" series together, Fukasaku joined forces once again with screenwriter Kazuo Kasahara, composer Toshiaki Tsushima and star Bunta Sugawara.
We have a story where the corruption is so deep, it almost seems normal. It has been suggested that the title, "Cops Versus Thugs", is meant to imply "Cops as Compared to Thugs" rather than "Cops Fighting Thugs". This would be a wise and apt distinction, as the cops are every bit as involved in the yakuza as the "thugs" in this story. Allegedly the story is loosely based on a true incident (though no one knows what incident this would be), and there is the question of whether this is pure fantasy or some sort of blunt social commentary.
Besides the film's wild violence (sort of the precursor to Takashi Miike), what really stands out is the funky 1970s score from Toshiaki Tsushima, who worked with Fukasaku on the "Honor and Humanity" films as well as many others. One of their earlier collaborations is "The Green Slime" (1968), a personal favorite that was wrongly harangued in the debut episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
This is "Fukasaku at the peak of his powers," writes Tom Mes, who really ought to know better than anyone. For me, the peak will always be Fukasaku's final film, "Battle Royale", perhaps simply because it was my first exposure to his work. But of his nearly countless contributions to cinema, "Cops vs Thugs" (despite this terrible English title despite the subtlety mentioned above) is one of his best, and a true joy for anyone who likes crime, action, and maybe just a pinch of sleaze.
Along with a high-definition transfer, Arrow Video brings us "Beyond the Film: Cops vs Thugs", a new 10-minute video appreciation by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane and a new 12-minute visual essay on cops and criminals in Fukasaku's works by film scholar Tom Mes. Praised by many as one of the all-time greatest yakuza films, this is not to be missed.