During a sweltering summer, a rookie homicide detective tries to track down his stolen Colt pistol.During a sweltering summer, a rookie homicide detective tries to track down his stolen Colt pistol.During a sweltering summer, a rookie homicide detective tries to track down his stolen Colt pistol.
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.
- Jan 25, 2005