Doberman Cop (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Special Edition, 2-Disc Special Edition
DVD + Blu-ray
Frequently bought together
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Released just as the popularity of yakuza movies was waning in Japan, and as the country's film industry was undergoing some fundamental shifts, Doberman Cop is a unique entry in the career of director Kinji Fukasaku (Battles Without Honor and Humanity, Cops vs Thugs), and reunited him with star Shinichi ''Sonny'' Chiba (The Street Fighter, Wolf Guy) in an American-style crime movie that mixes gunplay and pulp fiction with martial arts and lowbrow comedy to create one of their most entertaining films.
Based on a popular manga by ''Buronson'' (creator of Fist of the North Star), Doberman Cop follows the fish-out-of-water adventures of Joji Kano (Chiba), a tough-as-nails police officer from Okinawa who arrives in Tokyo's Kabuki-cho nightlife district to investigate the savage murder and mutilation of an island girl who had been working as a prostitute. Initially dismissed as a country bumpkin (complete with straw hat and live pig in tow!), Kano soon proves himself a more savvy detective than the local cops, and a tougher customer than anyone expected. As he probes deeper into the sleazy world of flesh-peddling, talent agency corruption and mob influence, Kano uncovers the shocking truth about the girl, her connection to a yakuza-turned-music manager (Hiroki Matsukata), and a savage serial killer who is burning women alive.
Made to appeal both to the youth market with its biker gangs and popular music, as well as to old-time yakuza movie fans, Doberman Cop is an surprising oddity in Fukasaku's career, his sole film adapted directly from a manga and never before released on video outside of Japan. Featuring Chiba at his charismatic best channeling a Japanese Dirty Harry while doing all his own stunts and Fukasaku at his most fun, deftly showcasing the combined talents of his ''Piranha Army'' stock company of actors and other regular players Doberman Cop is a classic action comedy and a missing link in 1970's Japanese cinema deserving of rediscovery.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
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Top customer reviews
While his Battles Without Honor and Humanity series was a huge hit, director Kinji Fukasaku was sweating out the demise of the yakuza genre along with several other studios whose endless series of sequels seemed to have finally played out. Doberman Cop is an obvious franchise attempt - based on a popular manga - that never got off the ground. But even as a one-off, Fukasaku takes a unique hard-boiled approach, mixed with some fish-out-of-water comedy, that makes it unusually appealing.
Opening with the gruesome discovery of a prostitute's burned body, Kano arrives on the scene traveling with a pet pig which he offers to the police captain in tribute. It's a hokey gimmick that seems at odds with the plot that develops around Miki (Janet Hatta), an ex-junkie turned singer whose career is micromanaged by an ambitious yakuza. But bouncing between comedy and pulp fiction cliches keeps the film oddly interesting. After a neon soaked, bluesy beginning, Doberman Cop splits its time between on-the-money faux film noir plot twists and Dirty Harry style stunts and violence courtesy of a signature .44 magnum.
Sonny Chiba seems more engaged here than in some of his other '70s cop thrillers, including Arrow Video's recent Wolf Guy. And his comfort level with the character of Kano rubs off, even when a street-tough sidekick is added to give the movie some more youth appeal. The stunts themselves, including a dizzying sequence repelling down a highrise building, are only slightly above average. But Fukasaku seems more patient here, letting the story play out to a satisfyingly nihilistic conclusion that could have been lifted right out of a post-WW2 detective story...and probably was.
Arrow Video does a great job bringing Doberman Cop onto hi-def, with a Blu-ray transfer that on par with any of their previous releases...and maybe a hair better. Extras include a "video appreciation" by Fukasaku biographer Sadao Yamane (who does a great job setting up the state of Japanese cinema at the time), new interviews with Sonny Chiba and screenwriter Koji Takada along with newly commissioned artwork and a standard-DVD copy.
Doberman Cop is about a country bumpkin detective (Chiba), who has a pig for a friend and is amazing at his job, even though he looks homeless. He comes to Tokyo when the body of a missing friend/lover/wife(?) has turned up. He gets wrapped up in a potential serial killer case, strippers and lounge singers.
Doberman Cop is all over the place and has a hard time keeping its story straight. First, it’s murder with no connections, then it has connections to a serial killer, and then a banger gang shows up. Next, we have strippers and lounge singers working with an ex Yakuza. The flick tries very hard to tie all of this together, which does generate a few surprises, but I still ended up with a feeling of mehness (it’s a real word). It’s sad that the Japanese film industry was starting to wane, but it’s clear Doberman Cop was not going to save it.
Arrow Video doesn’t care whether I like the movie or not and provides a package for everyone else that loves it. The Blu-ray is a bit on the light side when it comes to special features, but does provide an interesting 8-minute interview with Sadao Yamane, who discusses the decline of Japanese cinema. We also have the continuing interview with Sonny Chiba (part one was featured on Wolf Guy). There are no commentaries, which is surprising, but at least the solid video and audio make up for the shortage of features.
Maybe I was in a bad mood when I watched Doberman Cop, and if I was to gave it another chance, heck, I may end up liking it better. As the saying goes, opinions are like appendixes. We all have them until they explode and kill you.
Nevertheless, if you are a fan of Chiba and Japanese crime films, Arrow Video has the Blu-ray for you.
Note: I can’t be the only one that thought this movie was going to be a half man, half Doberman running around Tokyo solving crimes. I can’t be, right? Right? Hello? Is this thing on?
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