Stray Dog

"Excellent"

Stray Dog Review


The tone of Akira Kurosawa's blistering 1949 film noir Stray Dog is set in its opening shot: Over Fumio Hayasaka's sake-drunk, Elmer Bernstein-derived score, a dog pants, tongue lolling to the side in tight close-up, while a narrator intones, "It was an unbearably hot day." It is indeed hot - the film is set amid heat as palpably as Rashomon was the forest - and for young rookie detective Murakami (Toshiro Mifune), it's going to get hotter still. His problem is that his gun has been stolen, pick-pocketed from him by a lady thief on a packed bus; in a country where competence is famously bound to honor, Murakami loses not just his gun on that sweltering bus, but his pride as well.

Murakami's superior refuses the resignation he proffers, and the hunt is on. In this Murakami is assisted by the older, wiser detective Sato (Kurosawa regular Takashi Shimura), a cop with a less impetuous style. (Any Danny Glover/Mel Gibson correlation you might wish to make here would only cheapen Stray Dog while elevating an undeserving Lethal Weapon series.) The plot is thickened when Murakami's gun (the "stray dog" of the title) is used in brutal assaults on an ever-growing number of innocent female victims.

There's another stray dog here, and it's the WWII-veteran-turned-petty-criminal into whose hands the gun has fallen. "A stray dog," notes Sato, "turns rabid," and so it is that it becomes our heroes' mission to catch the crook before more women die. Kurosawa was a master of the action picture, and in Stray Dog he treats his audience to killing suspense, a colorful cast of underworld supporting players, and gritty documentation of the actual black market slums that sprung up in Tokyo following the war. (Seen today, these last scenes are interesting documents of Japan's real devastation; the Criterion DVD's extensive accompanying commentary reveals that the slums were considered so dangerous that a stand-in was sent for filming in place of Mifune.)

But Kurosawa was a humanist as well, and as the picture progresses Murakami comes to identify with his prey: Both are young veterans of the war and, coincidentally, both had their belongings stolen from them on the train while returning from service. Kurosawa invites us to speculate that in a war-ravaged nation, the path a young man chooses is as much a matter of luck as it is character.

As a film noir, Stray Dog is a marvel of efficient, cliffhanger suspense. But it is as a comment on film noir that it becomes a masterpiece. Against the backdrop of a defeated Japan, Kurosawa brings to the fore the emasculation of his hero at the hands of treacherous women - a theme that served as a context for all great noir - in the simple symbolism of the loss of a gun. It's no accident that it is women who fall victim to this stray dog (a symbol of sexual irresponsibility in itself), nor that it is women exclusively who hold the keys to its recovery. Poor Murakami can't handle these femmes fatale: He goes in blazing like a kid and gets nowhere. It's Sato who brings patience to the interviews; he flatters the women, visits with them, and ends up getting what he wants.

Aka Nora inu.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 13 mins

In Theaters: Friday 15th November 2013

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

IMDB: 8.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: Ronnie Hall as Himself - Stray Dog

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.