Cops vs. Thugs (1975)

Genres - Action  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Police Detective Film  |   Run Time - 101 min.  |   Countries - Japan  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Cops Vs. Thugs delivers plenty of action and suspense for the yakuza film enthusiast: there are countless shootings, shifts of alliance and a particularly tense finale. However, Cops Vs. Thugs is much more than a mere action outing. The carefully layered script also takes time to comment on how the letter of the law can sometimes betray what is truly decent and humane and how the forces of law and order can be as cruel and underhanded as the crooks they pursue. The performances reflect the script's humanist approach: Bunta Sugawara is sympathetic as the savvy cop hero who empathizes with the crooks a little too much for his own good, Seizo Fukumoto delivers a memorably wild-eyed turn as the yakuza kingpin who is determined to honor his criminal code to the bitter end and Tatsuo Umemiya is convincingly hateful as a nasty high-ranking cop whose "ends justify the means" approach alienates everyone except his bosses. Fukasaku's direction is the lynchpin that holds it all together: he gives the film his trademark kinetic-yet-stylish visuals, gets a confident level of performance from everyone in the cast and wrings a tremendous amount of emotional intensity from the material to ensure that the viewer not only understands but feels his point of view. The result is a powerful experience that is a must for yakuza film fans and well worth a gamble for any adventurous foreign film aficionado.