Murukami, a young homicide detective, has his pocket picked on a bus and loses his pistol. Frantic and ashamed, he dashes about trying to recover the weapon without success until taken under the wing of an older and wiser detective, Sato. Together they track the culprit.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Akira Kurosawa...That is all that needs to be said.
*-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.
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