“Bad luck can either make a man or destroy him.”
In post-WWII Tokyo, a rookie police detective (Toshiro Mifune) determined to track down his stolen pistol is accompanied by an older, wiser colleague (Takashi Shimura).
Akira Kurosawa’s noir-inflected detective flick remains one of the most enduring films in his early oeuvre. Haunted by the fact that his stolen pistol has been used by a desperate thief to kill innocent people, Mifune’s rookie detective (a recent WWII veteran) becomes the embodiment of guilt-ridden determination as he doggedly pursues his leads through the sweltering streets of Tokyo — accompanied by his older, wiser colleague (the always excellent Shimura). Throughout Mifune and Shimura’s hunt, we’re introduced to a host of interesting characters struggling to survive in a post-war environment — most notably Keiko Awaji’s pitiable showgirl “Harumi”, who may be the key link to the murderous pickpocket Mifune is so desperate to capture. Many critics have noted that Stray Dog‘s narrative possesses two strategically contrasting pairs: Mifune and Shimura, of course, form a classic rookie-veteran cop duo, while Mifune and his elusive nemesis “Yusa” (Isao Kimura) are both young veterans whose lives have taken divergent paths after the war — one towards crime, the other towards fighting it. At a little over two hours, Stray Dogs‘s pacing lags occasionally, but Kurosawa infuses his narrative with plenty of exciting sequences (including a particularly memorable, time capsule-worthy baseball game) and strategically frames every shot for maximum effect.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Takashi Shimura as Detective Sato
- Stunning cinematography and framing
- Effective location shooting (by Inoshiro Honda) in post-war Tokyo
- Keiko Awaji as Harumi
Yes, as one of Kurosawa’s early classics.