Kurosawa's adaptation of Ed McBain's police procedural is a Dostoyevskian morality play told with dazzlingly choreographed long takes. Toshiro Mifune stars as a business executive who begins to gather a ransom large enough to bankrupt his business after getting a note from kidnappers about a stolen child. When his son turns up, he realizes that it was his chauffeur's son who was abducted, and must decide what course to take. Kurosawa's films with contemporary settings have often dwelt on the corruption of the powerful, in particular on the world of business. But here, as the prerogatives of business clash with personal obligations, it's a businessman who must run the gauntlet of conscience. The film's first act, dealing with Mifune's discovery and tortured decision-making process is a tour-de-force of acting and direction, shot in master scenes whose fluidity is abetted by the mobility and lightness of the shoji screens separating the rooms of the spacious house. The latter part of the film, which tracks the police investigation, points up the collective nature of Japanese law enforcement and features excellent performances by Takashi Shimura and, in an early role, Tatsuya Nakadai. After opening in relative luxury high above the city, Kurosawa then immerses one in the grimy, tightly packed urban nightmare below. As the kidnapper confronts his victim in a shatteringly conclusive scene, he illustrates the gulf between the two.
by Michael Costello review