A classic crime film steeped in the vivid environs of postwar Tokyo, Stray Dog is arguably Akira Kurosawa’s finest film preceding the international success of Rashomon. A classic theme—the identification between criminal and crime fighter—is presented here in one of its earliest incarnations, as a promising young detective (Toshiro Mifune) struggles to retrieve his stolen pistol. The missing gun is used in a robbery and murder, and Mifune’s superior (Ikiru’s Takashi Shimura) is caught in the case’s volatile crossfire. As the detective closes in on his lethal alter ego, his own moral compass spins out of control, into a psychological tempest that inspires Mifune to give one of his best early performances. Using real locations and a sense of sweltering heat rivaled only by Do the Right Thing, Kurosawa (who first wrote this film as an unpublished novel inspired by an actual incident) maintains an atmosphere of lurid urgency perfectly suited to this riveting film noir scenario. - Amazon.com
ReviewsPlease login to review this resource
Stray Dog Film Review
The film begins when a new detective leaves target practice and has his pistol stolen on a crowded and hot bus in Japan. It is set in Tokyo, Japan during its recovery from World War II. Because Japan is now Allied-occupied, there are strict gun control laws and ammunition is hard to acquire, the detective is ashamed and mortified that he has lost his fully loaded Colt gun. The first half of the movie has the novice detective (Murakami) searching the streets of Tokyo and we can see struggling and impoverished parts of the city due to its life after the war.
Through his searching, some detective work, and help from a veteran detective, Murakami finds out that his pistol has been used in a series of crimes throughout the city. He becomes filled with guilt and becomes more determined to find the man responsible. He finds out that the suspect is a young war veteran who can’t get his life on track after the war.
The film is entertaining as a police thriller but it also gives a glimpse into how Japan is dealing with its post WWII life. If I were to show this film to students, I believe they would be interested in the cop story and the suspense of finding the perpetrator behind the stolen gun and crimes. However, there is much more to this movie. The glimpse of life in a recovering, war torn country is something to be studied and discussed. Also, the lives of Murakami, the cop, and Yusa, the criminal, need to be examined. Students can draw parallels between the two characters and discuss the effect that the war has had on the two men and how they chose to lead their life after the war. Both men had similar experiences in the war, but one man chose to use those experiences to make a better life, while the other used those experiences as an excuse to destroy his life.