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Kenkei tai soshiki boryoku (1975)

Acting boss Hirotani of the Ohara gang uses his friendship with corrupt cop Kuno to usurp a staged land deal that rival yakuza gang Kawade had arranged through local politicians. Open warfare erupts between the two gangs.

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Cast

Credited cast:
Bunta Sugawara ...
Detective Kuno
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Tatsuo Endô
Nobuo Kaneko
Takuzô Kawatani
Yôko Koizumi
Hiroki Matsukata ...
Kenji Hirotani
Hideo Murota
Sanae Nakahara
Mikio Narita ...
Katsumi Kawade
Asao Sano
Maki Tachibana
Kunie Tanaka
Tatsuo Umemiya ...
Lt. Kaida
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Storyline

Acting boss Hirotani of the Ohara gang uses his friendship with corrupt cop Kuno to usurp a staged land deal that rival yakuza gang Kawade had arranged through local politicians. Open warfare erupts between the two gangs.

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Action | Crime

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26 April 1975 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Cops vs. Thugs  »

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2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

COPS VS. THUGS: Unusual yakuza movie with a cop in the lead
11 March 2012 | by (Bronx, NY) – See all my reviews

COPS VS. THUGS is a Japanese yakuza movie directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and it shares themes and stylistic trademarks with his more celebrated yakuza films, SYMPATHY FOR THE UNDERDOG, GRAVEYARD OF HONOR, STREET MOBSTER, and the five-film series, THE YAKUZA PAPERS. The big difference here, as indicated by the title, is that the protagonist is not actually a mobster, but a tough cop who has to ride herd on the yakuza in his town. He is seen roughing up and disarming a quartet of yakuza henchmen in the opening pre-credits scene, thus establishing his tough guy credentials. Detective Kuno is played by veteran yakuza star Bunta Sugawara and we soon learn that, despite his fearlessness, the character is very much in the pocket of a local yakuza gang, having shielded one of its bosses from a murder charge six years before the events depicted here (reportedly based on a true story). So it's very much a yakuza film in the spirit of Fukasaku's other genre outings. Like them, it's got short sharp bursts of bloody, messy action—shootouts, stabbings, raids on rival turf, beatings of suspects, etc.--all handled in chaotic fashion, just like real-life violence. You won't find fancy fight choreography here or cleanly staged shootout sequences with montage editing. We get lots of long, unbroken takes and, during action scenes, some hand-held camera and zoom shots.

The backdrop for the events on screen is a land auction which the rival gangs are both hoping to manipulate to their benefit. But the real story involves the big monkey wrench that's thrown into Kuno's operation when Detective Kaida (Tatsuo Umemiya), a young crusading officer with judo skills and a college degree, takes over the squad to clean up the city and root out the yakuza. This puts Kuno in quite a bind. In an American cop thriller, Detective Kaida would be the protagonist and Kuno would be the villain. But it's clear that Fukasaku's sympathies lie with Kuno, who recalls starving after the war when the cops took all the black market rice for themselves and he resolved to grow up to be a "snatcher" himself. The cops in this town have figured out how to co-exist with the yakuza, tamping down their excesses and using designated scapegoats to serve prison sentences while allowing business-as-usual to continue. It's as if Sidney Lumet's film, SERPICO (1973), about whistle-blowing NYPD cop Frank Serpico, had been remade from the point-of-view of one of the corrupt cops, with Serpico as an antagonist. (Come to think of it, Lumet's 1981 follow-up, PRINCE OF THE CITY, is actually closer in spirit to Fukasaku's film than to SERPICO.) Fukasaku often spoke in interviews of the damage the war did to people's psyches and moral behavior and his films often addressed these issues. His last film, BATTLE ROYALE (2000), was a direct response to the way his generation of young people—teenagers during the war--was treated by the military dictatorship.

There are a number of women characters but their parts are all brief and they're basically just sex objects or floor mats to be walked on by the men. Reiko Ike, the sexy star of SEX AND FURY and FEMALE YAKUZA TALE, has a small role as a compliant gang moll assigned to Kuno to keep him company while he's separated from his wife.

COPS VS. THUGS was made in 1975 but is set in 1963. There doesn't seem to be much of an effort to recreate period detail. The cars and the fashions all seem to be from the 1970s. There is a scene where a black-and-white TV is on in an apartment and a singer is shown performing a sentimental ballad which is heard on the soundtrack as an attacker with a knife breaks in and stabs one of the occupants. The song sounds to me like it could indeed have been a popular hit in the early '60s. I wish I knew what the title is and who is singing it on TV in the scene.

I like the ending of this film, in which Kuno has to finally take some decisive action, even though it tears him apart to do so. There's an interesting postscript too, with an inevitable twist. However, I never felt much sympathy for Kuno. By any objective standard, he's a bad guy, a corrupt cop who stands in the way of good cops trying to do their job. One can make all kinds of allowances for him, given the explicit social and cultural contexts so ably supplied by Fukasaku, but that doesn't make me like this guy or feel he can be redeemed. Still, one has to give credit to Fukasaku for trying to challenge our assumptions. He never makes it easy for us.


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