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When a young homicide detective loses his gun to a pickpocket, a heated chase through Tokyo's underworld begins. Rich in atmosphere and detail, this classic Japanese film noir from Akira Kurosawa (Rashomon, Ikiru) offers powerful insight into the criminal mind and life in postwar Japan. The rookie cop, played by Toshiro Mifune (Rashomon, Seven Samurai), fumbles his way through the search until he is joined by a seasoned detective (Takashi Shimura, Ikiru, Rashomon). Following one clue to the next, they learn that the stolen pistol has been used in a robbery and fatal shooting. Desperate to find the murderer, Mifune soon reveals his own criminal impulses. Shot on location with the Hollywood model--and accompanied by music ranging from classical to boogie woogie--Stray Dog is both a thrilling crime drama and a complex character study.
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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locations and a sense of sweltering heat rivaled only by Do the Right Thing, Kurosawa (who first wrote this film as an unpublished novel inspired by an actual incident) maintains an atmosphere of lurid urgency perfectly suited to this riveting film noir scenario. --Jeff Shannon
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