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|Index||57 reviews in total|
37 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
The brilliance of early Kurosawa, 3 August 2002
Author: John Simpson (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Hastings, U.K.
Impressive as some of the later films of Kurosawa are - "Kagemusha" and "Ran" for example, I have to confess that it is his early work, particularly those set in modern Japan as opposed to its feudal past, that I find myself returning to with greater pleasure. He was not one of those artists who necessarily got better and better, rather was he one who continued to take on different challenges, not always with the same degree of success, as "Dodesukaden" and "Dreams" were to prove. I have long regarded the 1952 "Ikiru" as his greatest achievement, with the three modern day day films starring Toshiro Mifune that precede it, "Drunken Angel", "The Quiet Duel" and "Stray Dog", fascinating consolidations of his skill as a director. "Stray Dog" revels in technical accomplishment. It tells the story of a policeman who, after experiencing the theft of his gun while travelling on a bus, embarks on an odyssey to retrieve it. Questions of morality and honour loom large as they do in any Kurosawa film, with the quest becoming ever more urgent as evidence is gathered of the weapon being used in criminal activities. What might be regarded as plain bad luck in another culture is here seen as a matter of shame and dishonour by the unfortunate policeman, that has to be addressed forsaking all else. The search is pursued in a dazzling series of chases, encounters and interrogations that leaves the audience, like the hero, exhausted at times. The weather is hot throughout, characters sweat profusely and sometimes everything erupts in a tropical downpour - no other director uses rain so physically. Perhaps, at over two hours, "Stray Dog" is a little too long to sustain its material. It sags a little in the middle, but the chases at the outer ends of the film are wonderfully done, particularly the penultimate sequence where the cop pursues his prey through vegetation where city and countryside meet. You can almost smell the steamy atmosphere of a morning after rain where everything is about to heat up again. Possibly the other two Mifune films of the same period have the edge on this. They are more meditative works, their lengths more sustainable. But, for sheer cinematic bravado, this is the one.
26 out of 27 people found the following review useful:
Kurosawa's first major masterpiece, 18 September 2003
Author: David (email@example.com) from Chapel Hill, NC, USA
STRAY DOG stands as the legendary Akira Kurosawa's first real
masterpiece, noteworthy for at least two big reasons: the style -
classic American film noir (rich, velvety b&w atmospheres), enhanced
with a touch of Italian neo-realism (great use of diverse locations,
which provide a great view of day-to-day postwar Japan), and the star,
a young Toshiro Mifune, whose truly collaborative association with
Kurosawa was cemented here, and would grow in spectacular fashion
during the subsequent 16 years.
Mifune became as much of an international icon as Kurosawa, and this is the first film where it's easily evident why. As an example of film noir, STRAY DOG offers plenty of gripping suspense and moral complexity, and holds up well alongside classics like THE BIG HEAT, THE KILLING or THE MALTESE FALCON. Kurosawa touched upon international influences to an unprecedented degree in Japanese film (the internationalist impulses of Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi or Mikio Naruse are just as deep and varied, but far more discreetly deployed), Kurosawa also skillfully highlights Japanese specifics (the rookie cop expecting to be fired, even accepting the possibility in an apologetic fashion, only to be assured that he will not be fired - this would not occur in a similar American setting), while always linking the same details to universals: honor, nobility, responsibility. This would become the thread linking Kurosawa's celebrated period/samurai films to his contemporary dramas. STRAY DOG was perhaps the first of his films where it truly resonates in a global fashion - a timeless, classic film.
26 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant early noir from Kurosawa. To be recommended., 19 February 2004
Author: Ben_Cheshire from Oz
Captivating American-esque noir, one of Kurosawa's first great films. What
seems like a weak premise for a thriller at the start actually ends up
providing a great central situation for this movie which drives it forward
much better than, say, Donzoko. Music, also is great.
Toshiro Mifune, looking young and handsome, is quite marvellous as the central character, a detective whose gun is stolen on a bus. What starts out as a detective nervous about finding his gun and fixing a silly mistake, develops into a frantic and desparate man who feels somehow responsible for whatever crimes are committed with his gun. The suspense and detective-story plot are well developed in Stray Dog, but what really makes the story captivating is the revelation of the central character's feeling of guilt throughout, and his learning about crime, criminals, and that what is important is to make good come of your mistakes.
29 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Akira Kurosawa on the verge of greatness., 25 January 2005
Author: counterrevolutionary from Spokane, WA
The following year, 1950, would see Kurosawa achieve his first major
international success with the masterpiece Rashomon. Here, Kurosawa
doesn't quite have the sureness of touch which would characterize most
of his career, but Stray Dog is nevertheless a fine film noir and an
effective exploration of Kurosawa's ideas about postwar Japan in
particular and the human condition in general.
As you might expect from such a genius, Kurosawa is not satisfied with a simple good-guys/bad-guys cops-and-robbers story. He explores in depth the social and economic conditions in postwar Japan which led many young people--particularly returning veterans--to take to crime, and also the particular circumstances which motivate the acts of Yusa (Isao Kimura), the criminal. Indeed, a series of mistakes by the hero, rookie detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune), are one factor behind Yusa's crimes.
But neither is Stray Dog a facile blame-society message film, either. Kurosawa makes no excuses for Yusa. By giving Murakami a very similar history (so similar, in fact, that it comes off as a little contrived), Kurosawa makes the point that Yusa had the same choice as Murakami. That he chose differently is his responsibility.
But even more interesting to me is the character of chief detective Sato (Takashi Shimura), Murakami's superior officer, mentor, and friend.
Sato is the wise elder figure in this film, and in the hands of a lesser artist than Kurosawa, such a character generally ends up as a mouthpiece for the director's own viewpoint. Here, though, Kurosawa permits Sato to espouse a hardcore law-and-order philosophy: The cops are the good guys, the crooks are the bad guys, and that's it. Sato has no patience for Murakami's guilt feelings or touchy-feely philosophizing.
That Kurosawa would permit this view (which is not Kurosawa's view, nor the film's) to be given voice by the film's wisest, kindest, most competent, and most likable character is a mark of his confidence and courage.
22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Kurosawa noir..., 15 January 2002
Author: poe426 from USA
With his penchant for incorporating "Western" ideas into his films, Kurosawa
hits yet another home run with his take on the crime film. As ever, he
manages to make scenes that would (in the hands of a lesser director) seem
boring become absolutely riveting. Mifune's ride on the trolley, when he
loses his gun, for instance; or the scene where he has to explain the
situation to his superiors (and the subsequent search through police files
for a suspect); or the long undercover sequence. We can almost feel his
frustration. The tension mounts. And yet again we have the brilliant Shimura
playing off of Mifune, speaking in carefully modulated tones as he dispenses
advice to the hotheaded young detective. If ever there was a more perfect
combination of performers in cinema history, I never saw them.
12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Your Kurosawa collection starts here., 21 April 2005
Author: FilmSnobby from San Diego
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Early Kurosawa masterpiece; arguably, his first. *Stray Dog* grabs your
attention immediately, with the superbly weird close-ups of the mangy
dog panting behind the opening credits. Following the credits, the
director delivers a clinic on the art of montage, utilizing quick
nonlinear cutting that makes the narrative get straight to the point:
ashamed rookie cop (an impossibly young Toshiro Mifune) explaining to
his boss that he lost his gun; then a jump back to earlier in the day
during target practice; then a quick cut to a scene on a crowded city
bus in which the Colt gets lifted. Properly impatient with exposition,
Kurosawa has his editor wield the cutting knife with ruthless
precision. Only after the premise is established does the movie slow
Indeed, *Stray Dog* tends to meander during the next two hours. There's a famous 8-minute sequence in which Mifune, going undercover in search of his gun, wanders through the detritus (human and otherwise) of a black-market underworld in bombed-out post-War Tokyo. These 8 minutes contain zero exposition, containing instead some stunning on-location montage from 2nd-unit guy Honda (who directed *Godzilla* later) that unabashedly turns into scathing social commentary, and this, in the final analysis, is far more interesting than the catch-as-catch-can plot about a rookie detective's stolen gun. Owing stylistic and thematic debts to old Eisenstein pictures as well as then-current trends in Italian cinema, Kurosawa fashions his own polemic about post-War Japan that can't help but fascinate historians. Those of us in the West who have our own perceptions about what Japan is like (the stereotype is that it's a spiffy country inhabited by spiffy people) will be shocked at the filthy conditions and depravity glimpsed at in this footage. It's a land in a time and a place where women steal pistols for criminals in order to score rice-ration cards.
The movie is ultimately about how a person maintains a sense of morality in such conditions. Mifune's cop is, after all, not too different from the psychopath whom he pursues: both are veterans in their late twenties who ended up on entirely different paths which have suddenly converged. One reviewer below complained about Kurosawa's "facile humanism" (how can humanism be "facile"?), but I rather call it a heroic humanism. Mifune is an honorable young man who chooses to be a hero: after all, it would've been easier to quit the force after enduring the shame of getting his gun stolen, and it certainly would've been easier to roam the black-markets like his antagonist Yusa and generally cave in to psychopathy. Kurosawa is suggesting that if a man (or a nation) chooses the right path, redemption can be found. Not for the last time, Kurosawa makes heroism and simple decency thrilling to watch.
All in all, *Stray Dog* is a landmark achievement for Kurosawa and for cinema in general. It stands proudly beside his more famous achievements in the decade that followed. 8 stars out of 10.
15 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Akira Kurosawa...That is all that needs to be said., 24 June 2004
Author: ObsessiveViewer from Speedway, Indiana
*-Catch it on TV **-Worth a Rental ***-Buy it Used/On Sale ****-Buy it
New/Top Dollar *****-Worthy of a Blind Buy
Until early May of 2004 I was, for lack of a better label, an Akira Kurosawa virgin. I had never had the privilege of watching one of his masterpieces and every time I had the opportunity something got in the way. In May I found myself with a hundred dollars (a small fortune to a high school student with no job) and staring at Kurosawa's Four Samurai Classics dvd collection at Best Buy. The box set included the Criterion editions of Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro priced at $82.99. I saw this as a bargain since Criterion edition dvds usually run around $40 a pop, so I bought it without hesitation. After viewing all four films over a weekend I craved more Kurosawa and spent what money I had left on Rashomon, thus beginning my foray into Kurosawa's art.
I have been extremely satisfied with the five Kurosawa films I have seen and was pleased to receive Stray Dog in the mail today from Netflix. I began watching it within about 20 minutes of getting it and from the beginning I was hooked. The film stars Toshiro Mifune as rookie detective Murakami in 1940's Tokyo. Murakami's pistol has been stolen from him while riding a crowded bus on a hot day. Disgraced at himself for having lost such an important item he sets out to find the culprit and enlists the help of veteran detective Sato (played by Takashi Shimura). Together the two detectives hunt down the man responsible. However, things get worse and their investigation intensifies as they learn that the weapon is used in an armed robbery. Sato becomes a mentor to Murakami and takes him under his wing as they get closer and closer to their perpetrator.
Toshiro Mifune's performance is magnificent. He is not the over confident Kikuchiyo from Seven Samurai, or the calm and cool ronin from both Yojimbo and Sanjuro; instead he is a rookie detective in 1940's Tokyo. Mifune portrays a Murakami filled with tension and self-loathing. As his gun is used in more acts of violence, Murakami sinks deeper and deeper emotionally by placing the blame entirely on himself. Takashi Shimura is equally impressive as the veteran Sato. These two actors play very well off of eachother. Their chemistry alone is enough to make you want to see the film, luckily it is not the only reason. Akira Kurosawa tells the story with amazing pacing that seems slow but never boring. The use of forshadowing had little to do with subtilty and added to the tension of the film as the detectives closed in on their suspect until the tense climax, which I will not spoil for you.
All in all Stray Dog was two hours of intelligent storytelling combined by skillful acting. I would be tempted to give it a ***** rating solely because it is Kurosawa, however he gave me enough reasons to do so in the film itself.
17 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
More than just noir, 16 February 2004
Author: jonr-3 from Kansas City, Missouri, USA
This early Kurosawa film interested me not only as a historical object, but
because, as in every one of his films I've seen so far, the moral and
philosophical implication of the story carries as much weight as the
dramatic and poetic aspects. As another commenter said here, "When was the
last time you saw a film where the central character had something called a
moral imperative." To me it's extremely gratifying to find directors like
Kurosawa, Bergman, and today's Hirokazu Kore-eda who treat moral themes
seriously and with dignity, and don't shy away from difficult
I was also intrigued by how almost every scene bears, already, the stamp of Kurosawa's unique vision as a director. I have no idea how this comes about, but there's just something there, almost like a fingerprint, that says "Kurosawa" unmistakeably. I would have to leave it to more gifted and better schooled viewers than myself to explain it, but I love seeing it. In part, I suppose it's due to the exceptionally fine cinematographers that Kurosawa habitually worked with.
I think the film is about thirty minutes too long, but if I have to see a film that's a bit too long, I'm at least glad it's by Kurosawa!
11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
An overlooked masterpiece from the master, 16 February 2000
Author: rejoefrankel from Canada
Akira Kurosawa's STRAY DOG (English title) is a riveting, poetic vision of a young Tokyo officer (Toshiro Mifune) who's handgun is stolen from him on a bus. Driven to obsession, he follows the trail of the pickpocket through the seedy underworld of post-war China, in an attempt to regain his honor. A rare film of great social and philosophical significance. The deceptively simple story grows more complex as the man who gains possession of Mifune's handgun begins killing people and Mifune starts to blame himself. Every single second of this film rings true. An incredible atmospheric combination, of noirish melodrama and dark comedy. Every bit as good as Kurosawa's celebrated samurai pictures.
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Exciting, compelling, profound and very, very sweaty!, 6 July 2005
Author: Teebs2 from Kent, UK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Stray Dog (1949)
An early Kurosawa film, made before he came to the attention of cinema enthusiasts with Rashomon. Toshiro Mifune plays a young detective whose pistol is stolen by a pickpocket. Fearing for his job, and fuelled by embarrassment he sets out to find his pistol, which has been used in two crimes by the thief, in Tokyo during a sweltering heatwave...
Kurosawa's western influences are as clear as ever in Stray Dog, as for all intents and purposes it plays like a conventional American police story. Several scenes reminded me of Orson Welles' later film Touch of Evil, particularly an extended montage sequence with a similar feel to the famous opening shot of Welles' film showing a disguised Mifune walking the streets as he attempts to track down blackmarket arms dealers accompanied by a cacophony of street noise and Latin-jazz-big band music. Another scene where Mifune and the older cop leading the investigation, played by Takashi Shimura, stakeout a Japanese Baseball game, could've been a Hitchcock set-piece. Elements of this film seem to have been referenced in a variety of contemporary works from the doppelganger criminal/detective idea in Michael Mann's Heat to John C Reilly's desperate search for his lost gun in Magnolia.
However, despite the references to conventional genre film, Kurosawa adds depth to his film with several philosophical themes and ideas. First is the subtle way in which the detective and the robber are shown to be connected. Mifune explains how his possessions were all stolen after the war, and that he contemplated turning to crime but decided on the opposite route of law enforcement. The robber, who ends up with Mifune's gun, commits the crimes exactly because he too had his bag of belongings stolen. Mifune feels a deep sense of guilt that his pistol has been used in these crimes and almost breaks down completely when his boss, Shimura, is shot and wounded. The idea resonates with Mifune, that the life of crime he managed to avoid has returned to his life through this chance occurrence. The robber himself, is only seen in the great final chase, but he is given surprising depth of character just in the chase alone. The final chase between the two men is a classic Kurosawa scene. In a tense moment, there is an instinctive reaction by both men that they've finally found each other. Mifune is shot in the arm, out in the countryside, as Mozart drifts from a piano in a nearby house. His blood drips onto the flowers below. The theme that the gun only has a certain number of bullets pays off, as the robber fires twice and misses, leaving the gun empty allowing Mifune to overpower him. The two men wrestle in the flowers, falling into a river and get covered in mud. The robber is eventually overpowered and handcuffed and Kurosawa composes a wonderful shot showing the two, unrecognisable and exhausted men arranged at either side of the frame in the foreground, like a mirror image, while a group of singing schoolchildren walk past in the background. The robber suddenly begins to cry, and howls in anguish. Identity is blurred, the robber is no more evil than the detective, just a weaker man who gave in to the difficult environment he was faced with.
Although some elements of the technique aren't as well developed as Kurosawa's most famous, such as the clumsy flashback intro and narration there are many moments which show the sign of the truly great filmmaker he was to become. The sense of oppressive environment, both place and weather, is strong and it's possibly the sweatiest film I've seen! The detective story itself is pretty compelling, but the final, climactic scene alone transcends simple genre film-making with something profound, poetic and moving.
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