"As a part of my Kurosawa
binge, I viewed Stray Dog yesterday and found it was relatively OK."
Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa
Keiko Awaji, Minoru Chiaki, Ishiro Honda, Isao Kimura, Toshiro Mifune,
Haruo Nakajima, Noriko Sengoku, Takashi Shimura, Hajime Taniguchi, Reisaburo
Time: 122 min.
setting is Tokyo in the late 1940s, its streets blasted by war and its
economy in collapse. When a detective loses his gun he must go undercover,
descending into a hell teeming with characters as down and out and as desperate
as he is.
This title is available at HKflix.com
REVIEW: [spoilers herein]
As a part of my Kurosawa binge, I viewed Stray Dog yesterday and found
it was relatively OK. Toshiro Mifune is a young police officer Murakami,
whose pistol is stolen during a bus ride. With the help of a more experienced
colleague Sato (Shimura), Murakami unfolds a whole network of stolen firearm
Stray Dog is usually described as Kurosawa's stab at film noir, though
in my opinion it's more of a generic police drama. First 40 minutes before
Sato is even introduced drag a bit - Murakami, after losing his gun, is
advised to disguise himself as a "down and out" persona so he
could attract the arms dealers, which is followed by good 10 minutes of
non-dialogue footage of Mifune walking around Tokyo shantytowns and poor
areas looking, well, bummy. He finds one lead which leads him to another,
and he soon arrests a young woman which provides more info. Meanwhile,
Murakami learns that his gun has been "rented out" meanwhile
and that the user is a petty criminal who killed one person and stole money
- something which definitely unsettles him. The film unfolds without great
thrill and grandeur - Sato & Murakami get stationary from one clue
to another, and in the end, after some struggle, the thief is captured.
Which is not to say it's bad, but there are no notable twists here to speak
So what's worth noting here...first, it's interesting to see Mifune and
Shimura basically dress rehearsing for their roles in Seven Samurai. Mifune
is a young maverick going headfirst into everything, while Shimura is the
more methodical, experienced cop looking more sharply and with more patience.
As usual, Kurosawa uses weather to his favour - the whole film is set in
sweltering heat which is well visible (every character is drowning in sweat
and using towels and handkerchiefs every five minutes) and which adds some
intensity to the story (esp. with Murakami who is stressing over his gun),
and the finale, of course, is preceded by a heavy rainfall (which became
a somewhat of a staple with Kurosawa later on).
There are powerful scenes in the second half of the film. There is one
when the detectives are visiting the crime scene in which a young woman
has been killed, and her husband goes berserk pulling out plants from his
garden in rage. Then there is a drawn-out climax in which Mifune faces
the killer, after some mud wrestling and botched gunshots. There is also
another poke at the Japanese social values - when Murakami submits his
resignation feeling dishonoured as people are being killed with his gun,
he is urged to continue his work and put more effort in. Most interestingly,
Kurosawa shows pity to the killer - his main motive is that his all belongings
were stolen, so he turned to a life of crime after returning from the war.
The killer is no psycho or such, he's just a guy who found reintegration
into normal society after the war hard. His antithesis is Murakami, who
suffered a similar fate but opted to follow a path of justice so to say.
I found music really detrimental to this film. Usually, you get epic scores
with Kurosawa...good portion of this film is just followed by a daft "archive
newsreel" sort of music, which really doesn't make it any more noirish.
Pace of the film might put a casual viewer of as well (first hour really
drags), but I doubt any casual viewer would stumble upon this of his own
volition. At any rate, film improves as it goes on, picking up in pace
and in "mystery".
Definitely not as good and thought-provoking as Ikiru, but neverthless
a worthy Kurosawa non-jidai geki entry.
MAIROSU'S RATING: 7/10