An elder ronin samurai arrives at a feudal lord's home and requests an honorable place to commit suicide. But when the ronin inquires about a younger samurai who arrived before him things take an unexpected turn.
In Medieval Japan, an elderly warlord retires, handing over his empire to his three sons. However, he vastly underestimates how the new-found power will corrupt them and cause them to turn on each other...and him.
An executive mortgages all he owns to stage a coup and gain control of the National Shoe Company, with the intent of keeping the company out of the hands of incompetent and greedy executives. He needs the same money, though, to pay the ransom that will possibly save a child's life. His resolution of that dilemma -- the certain loss of the company vs. the probable loss of the child -- makes for one distinct drama, and an ensuing elaborate police procedure makes for a second.Written by
Akira Kurosawa: [weather] Near the ending of the movie there's a heavy downpour, set to increase the intensity of the situation. See more »
When the police is reviewing the footage from the train (where the kidnappers retrieve the briefcase), the camera rotates 180 degrees backwards and, despite it having been recorded from the cabin, the view is never blocked. See more »
If you like ransom/police storiesmysteries, and have interest in Kurosawa &/or Mifune, check it out at least once
High and Low, like Yojimbo and Throne of Blood, combines elements to create something special while seeming rather routine- while Yojimbo seems like a bad-ass samurai flick, it has the ingredients of a western and satire, and Throne of Blood is a rather faithful, strange adaptation of Macbeth in the guise of a warlord/samurai tale, High and Low does a similar method. Akira Kurosawa, a filmmaker who gets film buff's ears lit up at the mere mention of him, can usually be counted on to keep a film interesting even if it may not be entertaining to some of the crowd that likes a section of his movies or another (there's usually a split between his samurai/medieval tales and epics, and his dramas about the tragedies of ordinary people).
Here he finds a middle ground- the story is taken from a hard-boiled detective novel, the kind you could probably buy for a quarter or fifty cents in the old days- as he tells of two stories interconnected at the hip, both with detail a commercial Hollywood director would brush off. The first is of businessman Gondo (Toshiro Mifune, with his usual bravura presence, but with enough nuanced and quiet moments for two movies), who is about to close a deal to get the shoe company he's worked for for years, when he gets a phone call. There's been a kidnapping- not his son, but his chauffeur's by default. Backed into a corner without options, he gets together 30 million he really can't afford, and gives it to the kidnapper(s). The police, meanwhile, are not about to give up, and start digging for clues with an in-depth investigation that goes to probe every possibility: the chauffeur's son used as a partial witness with drawings; a car; a trolly car; all this leads to nothing and everything, leading to a third act that's as riveting as the first two.
Although the acting by everyone involved, cop characters included (Tatsuya Nakadai and Yutaka Sada are surprisingly good, the later even with limited screen time), Kurosawa keeps the film deliberately paced. Another director (more modern perhaps, but maybe not) might cut to the chase quicker, cutting past most of the investigation details, and even the emotional high-points in the first act. But Kurosawa is as interested in the nature and details of what the police do as he is with the compositions, which are constructed and framed as only an artist would do. The film creates a superb juxtaposition as well- Mifune's Gondo is enraged about what will happen with his money, but his morals stand above everything in his business affairs. Meanwhile, the cops here aren't cruel and unforgiving, but professionals trying to crack a case that the audience can hang onto. And then when the "seedy" underbelly of the city comes into view, it's looked on with at least some compassion by Kurosawa, and it's not too over-the-top.
If all your looking for is thrill after thrill, like in Sanjuro or even Hidden Fortress, look elsewhere- the violence, by the way, is kept to a low level for this one (it'd even be quite suitable for kids, if they don't mind the subtitles and quintessential intensity in the Japanese style of film acting). But for tight, often gripping suspense in the IL' 'whodunit' mystery tale, this is a keeper. Manipulative, perhaps, yet in the hands of a master it's an exemplary deal. And, in the end, it even provides a sad, existential kind of conclusion as good and evil become blurred as the kidnapper looks through glass at the disillusioned Gondo. It's one of the great endings in world cinema. A+
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