Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Stray Dog

A young Toshire Mifune plays Murakami, a rookie police detective who finds his life in chaos after his gun is pick-pocketed from him on a crowded bus during a scorching heat wave in a 1940’s Tokyo summer. Not willing to let this incident get the better of him, and possibly his job. Murakami sets out to track down and retrieve his stolen pistol. He is paired up with a laid back veteran officer, Sato, played wonderfully by Takeshi Shimura (Stray Dog is one of many wonderful collaborations between Kurosawa, Mifune, and/or Shimura), together they set out on a determined hunt to find his gun, a hunt that puts Murakami into the dark Tokyo criminal underworld. The film develops a great “Buddy Cop” feel to it with Takashi Shimura’s performance as Mifunes superior.

Suddenly Murakami’s situation goes from bad, to worse when forensics discover that Murakamis gun, wherever it may be, has been used, First in a robbery, and followed shortly by a murder. Now Murakami must carry the guilt that his silly mistake of losing his gun, has turned into something much more. The feeling of responsibility slowly eats away at him, and his frantic search for the gun, and the person who has it in their possession, becomes all the more urgent!

Stray Dog works well to grab your attention right from the start with its eerie close up of a panting dog, set behind the opening credits (which I might add became a major controversy with animal rights groups who believed that the dog was purposely injected with rabies). The film then gets straight to the point, immediately showing Murakami explaining to his superiors that his gun had been stolen, followed suit by flash back of the early events. Starting with his time at a shooting range (which becomes very important later), next we see where it all began with Murakami’s ride on the bus, which Kurosawa sets up so well. It’s amazing how a director can take something as simple as a bus ride, and make it so spectacular. The mood is set so well, the sense of a hot congested bus, followed by a fleeting foot chase. There is so much going on in such little time. By the time the foot chase ends, you feel like you need to take a breath and wipe the sweat away yourself!

There are so many great moments to follow throughout the film. One brilliant scene has Murakami following one of the suspected pickpockets while she walks through the streets of a post war Japan. She knows he is there, he knows she knows, but the following stays casual. She tries to lose him by cutting through building, but he is right there behind her. Also the films climax at the end, which I will reserve for you to see, it’s just incredible!

Toshire Mifune plays his character so well. You really see the growing desperation and anxiety that builds up in him, especially as he begins to uncover the tragic events that his stolen pistol has participated in. His guilt is fuelled even more when he later discovers that while he detained a girl who dealt out his stolen gun (guns were rented out for a period of time in exchange for a ration cards), they walked right past the man who was coming to return Murakami’s gun!
Most people when they think of Akira Kurosawa, think of sweeping Samurai epics. However Stray Dog shows a different side of Kurosawa, as well as his obvious western influences. It was also Kurosawa’s first true classic, and still to date one of his finest works!

A Film By Akira Kurosawa


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