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In his 1975 masterpiece Cops vs. Thugs, director Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale) paints a dynamic portrait of flourishing corruption and unchecked greed using gritty 70s cop movie élan and true crime exposé detail. Brimming with irresistibly brutal vitality, Cops vs. Thugs demonstrates why Fukasaku counts filmmakers Takeshi Kitano, Quentin Tarantino and Takeshi Miike as devoted acolytes. It's 1963 and the Kurashima City yakuza underworld has narrowed to two warring clans. The Kawade gang uses political influence to legitimatize their rackets, while the Ohara group shares an uneasy alliance with corrupt local cops. But when Boss Ohara initiates a bold waterfront land-grab, the precarious balance between gangsters, police, and politicians tips towards a bloodbath. "Drop dead, it'll clean the city," growls the Violence Squad's Detective Kuno to a group of Kawade assassins en route to a night club massacre. But Kuno's own hands are not spotless. Torn between his childhood connections with a yakuza kingpin, mounting pressure from reformer superiors, and the trigger happy gun-lust that led him to the police force in the first place, Kuno occupies the eye of Cops vs. Thugs' full-force hurricane of ferocious action. Coolly supplementing the body count on both sides, Kuno is a quick-triggered pilgrim in a world where, "gangsters and cops are the same. They both respect codes and laws." From an impromptu precinct men's room conjugal visit to a bicycle-mounted beheading, Cops vs. Thugs sneaks scathing social critique inside a blood-spattered soufflé of audacious photography and grisly violence, garnished with Toshiaki Tsushima's wah-wah driven score.

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KI4682 Cops Vs. Thugs DVD (1979/Kinji Fukasaku)) $14.95