A detective whose revolver is stolen goes undercover to locate the thief, sinking to such depths that even his colleagues don't recognize the difference between him and the thief. — Genre: Foreign Film - Japanese — Rating: U... more »N
"I am not a Japanese film historian, so others can elaborate on that aspect. When it started, I wasn't sure I would take to this film, but it draws you in inexorably. Shot on location in Tokyo, remarkably just 3 or 4 years after the end of WWII, it most reminds me of a Japanese Naked City, with echoes and moments reminiscent of other American gangster films all the way back to Public Enemy and The Roaring Twenties of the 30's. The location photography alone is fascinating in depicting the Japan of 1948 or 49. And the story progresses as a very young Toshiro Mifune wanders through various levels of that postwar society in search of the thief who stole his Colt. On hand also, is that wonderful actor in Kurosawa's repertory company that was the leader of the 7 Samurai, and here too, is the older & wiser mentor to Mifune.Finally, the movie wins you over for its own reasons. Though early, Kurosawa's composition, framing, and directorial skill is evident. The performances are fine. The atmosphere and location photography ground the film in reality. And it is a more complex film and story than it first appears. And, like early Ford, there is poetry amid the restrictions of budget and resources. And like early Ford, it presages what was to come. Good stuff if you've a mind for it. 5 stars for those folks."
A consistently fascinating film
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 06/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I foung this to be an absolutely fascinating film on several levels.First, although we primarily associate Kurosawa with period films, this was one of his relatively few contemporary films. Along with the utterly phenomenal IKIRU (1952) and HIGH AND LOW (1963), it is one of his three most successful nonhistorical films. Nonetheless, for us in the early part of the 21st century, it possesses a great deal of almost documentary interest for glimpses into life in post-war Japan. Released in 1949, it depicts a Japan that had not yet begun the strong enonomic recovery of the 1950s. I found the numerous images of individuals struggling on the margins of economic survivability to be riveting. This was seen not merely in the "stray dog" who possessed the gun of the main character, but in many minor characters, not all of whom we actually see. One of the truly sad moments was when Takashi Shimura (familiar as the head samurai of SEVEN SAMURAI, the dying man in IKIRU, and the woodcutter of RASHOMON) explains to Toshiro Mifune how a thief's stealing the cash a woman had saved for her dowry probably meant that she would not have enough money saved again until she was an old maid, implying that the thief had stolen not merely her cash, but her chance of happiness in life as well. Second, seeing Toshiro Mifune playing a despondent, anxious, inexperienced, overly deferential detective was a completely new experience. It is a range of emotions that I had not previously seen him put on display in anyother role. I must add that I think most contemporary American viewers will find, perhaps, his character to be a little too groveling and impetuously stupid. My daughter watched this movie with me (though 14, she is a huge Kurosawa fan as well), and she felt very, very uncomfortable at the way he deferentially hung his head in shame before his superiors. (I should add that despite this, she loved the film as a whole as well.)The film was full of fascinating shots of private spaces that as a Westerner I found to be one of the most interesting things in the movie. When American films started being made in the 1950s that were at least partially set in Japan, the shots in people's homes often made them look as if they were display pieces, not like actual places where people would live. But the homes in STRAY DOG all looked lived in, like real abodes. But while all these things are good and fine, the movie in the end has to stand up as a piece of cinema, and it does so admirably. Although on one level not a great deal happens in the movie, Kurosawa manages to imbue the conflicts and struggles in the film with Shakespearean importance. He manages to bring home the point that people's lives and their own concerns are of infinite concern to them. And scene after scene that might have come off as trivial and unimportant instead are crucial and memorable, like the long scene in which Mifune sits in the apartment of a dancing girl and her mother, attempting to gain information about her quasi-boyfriend who is suspected of having and using Mifune's pistol. The camerawork in the film is flawless, and many of the scenes stay with you long after you have seen the film. I agree with the reviewer who emphasized the overwhelming sense of heat that the film communicates (the action all takes place in the middle of a heat wave). One scene in particular bears pointing out. In the climatic fight with the villain, we witness one of the least glamorized and romanticized fights in the history of the cinema. Neither man places tremendous fighting skills before the viewer. Neither looks particularly competent. When the fight is over, both men lay heaving and sweaty and dirty on the ground in the middile of a field. It is an utterly remarkable moment. Finally, after a few minutes, the thief begins to sob, less, one suspects, over having been caught, but over what his life has become. In short, a marvelous film. And very, very different than most of the films by which we know Kurosawa. I strongly recommend it."
"Good time for a showdown."
Strategos | In Space above Planet Earth | 01/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The sweltering heat of summer in the big city, the atmosphere of a metropolis in a time of drastic change, an idealistic young rookie out on a quest for personal revenge...
What can I say? Every time I think I have Kurosawa figured out he again amazes me with the incredible power of story-telling that he wields. While many will praise the master of Japanese cinema for his awesoem samurai epics, this one strikes a similar chord to High and Low, spinning a tale of social commentary in post-war Japan. There are differences though. Big ones.
While High and Low (like this film) tells us a great deal about police-work and the state of Japan after World War II (and the terrible things that people may or may not have been forced to do as a result of the social upheaval), this film is more personal.
Toshiro Mifune is probably the greatest actor in Japanese history, and his early performance here struck me very hard indeed. Previously I had seen Mifune as an old man and a rascal, but never playing a serious dramatic lead as a young man (ordinary Joe). When our young protagonist loses his gun, I can feel his shame and disgrace, and feel his terrible moment of panic. As the film progresses, he continues to scan every room as if it might hold some hidden clue, and his intensity is such that it worries his superiors and outright frightens normal people who get in his way. As the film progresses we watch the tension grow, and see his mind pushed closer and closer to the edge. He isn't worried about his gun. He is obsessed. Every new crime he hears about triggers the reaction "Was it MY gun?!" By the end of the movie my eyes were glued to the screen, and few moments in movie history match the scene where he finds himself right next to the killer who has his gun, with only a simple description to go on (that matches about five or six people right in front of him). Mifune is awesome in this movie. It's worthy buying for him alone.
Of course this detective story is about more than just one person, and all of the characters are acted out supremely well. Characteristic of Kurosawa, the camera is used to perfection, the music used to wrap you into the story, and the dialog is perfectly natural. It all feels so real (or is it surreal?), you simply don't know what is going to happen next. The atmosphere is the thing that really sends this one into the stratosphere, though. It's like The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon. As we are taken through seemingly every aspect of Japan's metropolis, we see people sweating up a storm, staring off into space dispassionately, struggling just to keep alive in a dangerous world. It's all metaphorical, but it's also all wildly entertaining. If you love film-noir or Kurosawa you must buy this movie immediately. "
Post war Tokyo crime spree
Cory D. Slipman | Rockville Centre, N.Y. | 01/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Akira Kurosawa's 1949 film noir "Stray Dog" is a gritty crime drama shot on the streets of a sweltering post WW2 Tokyo. Young homicide detective Murakami played by a youthful Toshiro Mifune, has his Colt service revolver pilfered from his pocket on a crowded bus. Unable to catch the thief after a futile chase he returns back to the station in self imposed shame. His superior suggests that he go out on the streets and interview known pickpockets for insight into the stolen gun market.
Mifune wanders the streets in disguise trying to procure clues. At this juncture director Kurosawa does an excellent job giving us a view of the late 40's Japanese society. It's decimation and subsequent attempt at reconstruction is portrayed quite effectively as Mifune skulks through the decadent underbelly of the criminal element.
After his investigation stalls he partners with veteran officer Sato played by Takashi Shimura. Shimura acts as a voice of reason to the despondent Mifune after they learn that his gun has been used for a series of crimes, one involving a murder of a young woman.
Mifune and Shimura discover that the gun has wound up in the hands of a criminal named Yusa. They learn of his habits and haunts through his dance hall girlfriend. Sato confronts him at a hotel he's been quartered out and winds up getting shot.
Mifune, feeling grief and guilt over Sato's plight is now ready to crack from the violence spawned by his stolen weapon. He learns of Yusa's whereabouts and has a confrontation with him, where he is shot but finally apprehends the elusive criminal. We see the maturation of Mifune as a law enforcement officer as he is schooled by the wise Sato who thankfully survives his wounds.
Kurosawa uses his film to depict the fragility of the redeveloping Japanese society after it's upheaval following the war years."
A story that has real meaning in today's world.
Monty Finnell | Sparks, NV United States | 10/06/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Stray Dog" is a story about a Japanese veteran who comes home to a destroyed world after W.W.I.I.. Many veterans returning home today could probably relate. Director Kurosawa did a magnificent job relating a world in total colapse, and illustrating the strugle that everday people had to go through to survive and go on living. Being a history buff, I found the scenes of life in Japan after the war to be very enlightening."