An executive of a shoe company becomes a victim of extortion when his chauffeur's son is kidnapped and held for ransom.
Memorable, crazy movie
It's a feast for the eyes. But what really makes this dramedy work is the acting.
Although I seem to have had higher expectations than I thought, the movie is super entertaining.
High and LowThe key to being a successful kidnapper is never targeting families with twins or triplets. However, the dimwitted abductor in this thriller can't even swipe the correct kid.Just as capitalist Kingo (Toshiro Mifune) is about to use his enormous wealth to acquire a company, he receives a phone call from a mysterious man informing him that his son has been kidnapped and that a ransom is demanded.While Kingo agrees to put his purchase on hold to save his son, that all changes when it is learned that the captors took Kingo's chauffeur's son by mistake. Worse, they still want Kingo to pay the ransom.A classic kidnapping caper elevated by an impossible moral quandary, director Akira Kurosawa's black-and-white 1963 adaptation of the American novel is beautifully shot, briskly pace and dynamically performed by Kurosawa's main muse Mifune. Nevertheless, abducted Japanese children are still expected to maintain a respectful GPA. Green Light vidiotreviews.blogspot.ca
Kurosawa was known as a great humanist, and ethical questions clearly play a central role in each thread of the plot. Kingo Gondo (played by Toshiro Mifune) is a director on the board of a company called National Shoes. He is approached by three other directors, who want to overthrow the current president, and start producing a new line of shoes. Gondo agrees that the president is old-fashioned, but he rejects the shoes they show him as shoddily made. He ejects them from his house, only to get a phone call from a kidnapper who claims to have taken his son. His son turns up, but his friend the chauffeur's son is gone. Even after the kidnapper realizes his mistake, he insists that the ransom still be paid. Gondo had been planning to use the money to fight off the take-over bid, so the police immediately wonder if the other directors have orchestrated the kidnapping in order to deprive Gondo of the cash he needs to stop them. The chauffeur, Gondo's wife and the police are all reticent to put too much pressure on Gondo to pay the ransom, but it is clear he must make a choice: to save the boy or fend off the take-over.In the second half, the police investigation is driven on by their sympathy for Gondo and their desire to see the culprit punished for all of his crimes. There is also a class struggle subtext with Gondo living in a quiet mansion on a hill and the kidnapper in a tiny room below.The cast of High and Low was truly star-studded. Mifune, Takashi Shimura, Isao Kimura and Minoru Chiaki were among the Seven Samurai, and the lead detective here Tatsuya Nakadai had a leading role in both Sanjuro and Yojimbo. The kidnapper is played by Tsutomu Yamazaki who would go on to star in Juuzo Itami's Tampopo. Future Mito Komon lead Eijirou Touno even has a cameo as a factory worker.The film is in black and white, but Kurosawa has a wonderful eye for arresting visuals, and the story is tense and absorbing to the end. A classic.
I have long been convinced that the best film adaptations are when filmmakers take pulpy works--The Godfather, Jaws, etc.--and invest them with greater meaning. Exhibit A could certainly be this Kurosawa classic, based on Ed McBain's "King's Ransom", which takes a rather straightforward police procedural and transforms it into a powerful examination of moral culpability and the toxic effects of poverty. What I like most about this film--besides the gorgeous wide-angle compositions--is the deliberateness of it; Kurasowa never rushes as he follows the police tracking their quarry, a refreshing change of pace from the frenetic quality of so many movies today.
"High and Low" is a Japanese hostage police drama that follows Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune), the executive of a successful shoe manufacturer who is extorted for 30 million yen when the son of his chauffeur is kidnapped and held for ransom - the only problem is that he can't risk losing the money, otherwise he'll slump into debt, having put all his possession up for collateral in order to buy the majority of shares and maintain order in his company.The movie is over two hours long, split into two parts and is masterfully directed by Kurosawa, using deep focus photography, multiple camera setups, long takes (the longest being 9 minutes and 50 seconds) and his skillful blocking of the actors to get the most out of their performances.The first 50 or so minutes take place inside Gondo's house, the kidnapper on the phone making demands and the police trying to reason with him. Toshiro Mifune has a difficult choice to make and you can really see why he's one of the great actors in film with these scenes - his facial expressions and body language tell you everything about his internal struggle to choose between the safety of his employee's son, or the well being of his family.The movie's then followed by a brilliant train sequence that was done in two takes, had eight cameras filming at once and a hundred extras on board! Kurosawa definitely knew how to stage a scene to make the most out of his resources cinematically.The final part is a police procedural, with every finite detail being included in the large scale investigation. Just like the rest o the movie, it's all very exciting and expertly crafted."High and Low" is one of Akira Kurosawa's best films and one of the best movies ever made, crime flick or otherwise.