Too often when people talk about Akira Kurasawa, they emphasize the samurai movies he made so much that the average film buff might incorrectly assumed that's all he did. In fact, most of his films were NOT about the samurai culture, but about modern Japan.
Among the best of these non-samurai movies are Ikiru, Scandal, The Bad Sleep Well and this film. High And Low is set in contemporary Japan and it's the story of a kidnapping. The first half of the film centers mostly on the Toshiro Mifune character and the impact of the kidnapping on him. It seems the kidnappers accidentally kidnapped the chauffeur's son and not the one belonging to corporate big-shot Mifune. He struggles with whether or not to pay the extremely high ransom, as it will likely bankrupt him and his family. This dilemma is handled very well. The second half of the film is centered on the forensics and police footwork done to try to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Particularly outstanding in this film is the pacing. Some might consider it to be a bit slow, but I loved how they fused a human drama with the step-by-step police work (similar to a Law And Order episode in how it unfolds, but in even greater detail and attention to realism). The acting is also top-notch, though it is not a "Toshiro Mifune" movie per se, as he barely appears in the second half of the film. Instead, it's an ensemble film starring many actors you might recognize from previous Kurasawa flicks.
I saw this on a Criterion DVD. The picture quality was absolutely PERFECT--like the print was just made yesterday. However, it was very disappointing to see that this DVD had NO EXTRAS!!! That's a little unusual for a Criterion DVD--so often they have great special features--often several.
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A wealthy businessman is told his son has been kidnapped and he will have to pay a very large sum for him to be returned safely. It is then discovered that his son is safe at home: the kidnapper took his chauffeur's son by accident. The kidnapper says this makes no difference: pay up or the child dies. This leaves him with a moral dilemma, as he really needs the money to conclude a very important business deal.
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