Newest Reviews
Kat and the Band
Perfect 10
Red Penguins
China Syndrome, The
Round-Up, The
Around the Sun
Once There Was Brasilia
Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street
She Demons
Good Girls, The
Hail, Hero!
Faces in the Crowd
Traitor, The
Third Generation, The
Saxon Charm, The
Spy Intervention
Killer with a Thousand Eyes, The
Vigil, The
Liberation of L.B. Jones, The
Wizard of Baghdad, The
Good Manners
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Sweet Home
Big Score, The
Three Outlaw Samurai
Echoes of Fear
Guinea Pig, The
Truth, The
Good Die Young, The
Newest Articles
Party Hard: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Nights in with ABC 2 - Your Faces are All Blurred!
Eve Knew Her Apples: The Lady Eve on Blu-ray
Network On Air: Tempo - Gallery One
Network On Air: Nights In with ABC 1 - Welcome Once Again to Manchester!
Transformative Apocalypses: Phase IV and Southland Tales
The Happiest Days of Their Lives: The Guinea Pig on Blu-ray
Faced Poe: Three Edgar Allan Poe Adaptations Starring Bela Lugosi on Blu-ray
Hard Luck, Buster: The Cameraman on Blu-ray
At the Hop: Mr. Vampire on Blu-ray
Divine Madness: Female Trouble on Blu-ray
Country Matters: Further Out of Town on Blu-ray
Bat-Damn: Was Joel Schumacher's Batman Really That Bad?
The Beat Goes On: Takeshi Kitano Collection on Blu-ray
Dream Treats: Scorsese Shorts on Blu-ray
It's Only Money: Laughter in Paradise on Blu-ray
A Regular Terpsichore: Dance, Girl, Dance on Blu-ray
Teenage Trauma: Baby Love on Blu-ray
The Happening: Pet Shop Boys It Couldn't Happen Here on Blu-ray
Who Watched The Watchmen?
The Golden Age of Colonic Irrigation: Monty Python Series 4 on Blu-ray
Lady of Pleasure: Lola Montes on Blu-ray
Take You to the Gay Bar: Funeral Parade of Roses on Blu-ray
Hit for Ms: Mark Cousins' Women Make Film on Blu-ray
Look Sinister: The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse on Blu-ray
  Doberman Cop A kick-ass country bumpkin with a mean Magnum
Year: 1977
Director: Kinji Fukasaku
Stars: Sonny Chiba, Janet Hatta, Eiko Matsuda, Takuzo Kawatani, Hideo Murota, Koichi Iwaki, Nenji Kobayashi, Seizo Fukumoto, Hiroki Matsukata
Genre: Action, Thriller, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Tough detective Joji Kano (Sonny Chiba) travels from Okinawa to Tokyo to investigate the brutal murder of a young island girl who had been working as a prostitute in the city's Kabuki-cho district. Local cops dismiss Kano as a clueless country bumpkin yet, wielding a mean-looking .44 Magnum pistol, this unstoppable karate badass heroically diffuses one dangerous situation after another. Kano eventually finds an ally in the dead girl's biker boyfriend. Together they start to unravel a shocking mystery involving tortured singer Miki Harukaze (Janet Hatta), her sleazy yakuza-connected manager Hidemori (Hiroki Matsukata) and a serial arsonist torching women around the city.

No actor resembled a manga hero brought to life better than Japanese action star Sonny Chiba. No surprise then that Chiba headlined several films adapted from popular comic book serials including Wolf Guy: The Enraged Lycanthrope (1974), Karate Bull Fighter (1975) and Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977). Doberman Cop was adapted from a gekiga (adult-oriented action manga) that was the first hit for Buronson, the pen-name adopted by writer Yoshiyuki Okamura. As one might expect from a writer that drew his pseudonym from stone-faced screen tough guy Charles Bronson, Buronson specialized in gritty, hard-boiled action yarns. Indeed he went on to co-create Fist of the North Star (1987) arguably the most absurdly macho manga epic of them all. However in adapting Doberman Cop for the screen cult filmmaker Kinji Fukasaku (who launched Sonny Chiba's movie career in the early Sixties and collaborated with the actor for decades afterwards) deviated from the source.

For one thing Fukasaku altered the character of Joji Kano away from the manga's street-wise Dirty Harry (1971) type into an affable yokel in a straw hat, clueless about big city ways but armed with shrewd crime-solving instincts and killer karate skills. It was an idea already established in American productions like the Seventies television show McCloud not to mention Coogan's Bluff (1968), the very first collaboration between star Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel. Of course Clint never walked the streets with a pig for a sidekick nor used a handful of magic Tarot beans to solve crimes. Chiba commands the screen with one of his most affable and interestingly vulnerable characterizations yet Doberman Cop actually makes less out of its fish-out-of-water angle than one might expect. Indeed though Fukasaku stages plenty of gory gun-play, karate action and stunts showcasing Chiba's legendary prowess, far from a guns-blazing action-fest the film spins a rather melancholy tale where sad, flawed, desperate characters are caught in web of tragedy. Even the villains prove pitiful and vaguely sympathetic.

Unlike many filmmakers at Toei studios Fukasaku had the dexterity needed to counterbalance those elements required for a good exploitation film (i.e. outrageous sex and violence) with a sincere empathy for the junkies, hustlers, hookers and dreamers that populate society's lowest rung. Kano finds decency and empathy among a prostitute (Eiko Matsuda, star of Nagisa Oshima's celebrated art-porn opus In the Realm of the Senses (1976)), her pimp (Takuzo Kawatani) and a teenage biker gang. By comparison his big city cop colleagues come across as intolerant, inept, patronizing or plain corrupt. As a studio famously founded by yakuza Toei's films were notorious for portraying the police in a negative light. Uniquely for a Sonny Chiba action film, Doberman Cop makes a point of highlighting that Kano's greatest asset as a detective is neither his great big gun nor karate prowess but rather a capacity for empathy that distinguishes him from his insensitive Tokyo colleagues. Even so the key character in this story is not Kano but rather Miki the tragic lounge singer (whose lovely ballads have a charming Karen Carpenter flavour about them). Her attempt to reinvent herself prior to succumbing to drug-addiction and showbiz misery underscore the film's cynical portrayal of Tokyo as a city that seduces, corrupts and ultimately destroys 'country folk.' Unfortunately the alternative Kano offers Miki does not seem especially liberating either. He implores her to return home, nurse her ailing mother and eventually settle down to a lifetime of domestic servitude, a dilemma similar to that facing the heroine of Larry Cohen's underrated thriller Special Effects (1984) only without the irony. Despite a meandering plot and wayward pacing, Doberman Cop remains consistently engaging and unique both in terms of its subject matter and atmosphere especially for a Seventies Japanese action film.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


This review has been viewed 1492 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Kinji Fukasaku  (1930 - 2003)

Japanese director whose long career took in science fiction such as The Green Slime, Message From Space and Virus and gangster movies such as Yakuza Graveyard, Street Mobster and Graveyard of Honour. He also co-directed Tora! Tora! Tora! In 2000 scored a big international hit with the savage satire Battle Royale. Died whilst making a sequel, which was completed by his son Kenta.

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star is the best at shouting?
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Brian Blessed
Tiffany Haddish
Steve Carell
Olivia Colman
Captain Caveman
Sylvester Stallone
Gerard Butler
Samuel L. Jackson
Bipasha Basu

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Paul Smith
Andrew Pragasam
  Lee Fiveash
  Mick Stewart
Enoch Sneed
  Dsfgsdfg Dsgdsgsdg


Last Updated: