Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0
Stray Dog is the most sweat-drenched movie I’ve ever seen, and that includes Body Heat. I know having “the city” as a character is a cliche but in this case, it’s the heat wave that’s wracking Tokyo. Every moment until the climax, the tension ratchets higher as Toshiro Mifune as Detective Murakami searches for his stolen gun.
And that brings up the elephant in the room. Mifune is joined by Takashi Shimura after 40 minutes of screen time, as the world-weary older Chief Detective Sato, who is going to show this green newcomer the ropes.
And those life lessons he expounds? “Don’t try to think about the humanity of the people we’re pursuing.” “We are guard dogs protecting the sheep against wolves.” Hell, the last scene was Shimura explaining to Mifune that eventually he’ll forget about the man who killed a woman with his gun. Naturally.
Needless to say, it was a bit uncomfortable watching a movie that addresses so much of what’s going on today, with the societal discussion around police funding and appropriate methods, and having it come down squarely on the side of the “sheepdog” movement.
Of course, that depends on you assuming that Kurosawa agrees with the words he put in his character’s mouth. I could see an argument made that says we were supposed to disagree with Sato’s philosophy, and that he was portrayed as a warning against Murakami becoming too jaded. But I don’t think that’s supported by the actual movie, just wistful thinking.
And finally, what a very different approach to gun violence. The entire movie is driven by a cop obsessed with recapturing one semi-auto with seven bullets. A single pistol in modern American society would be lost in an ocean of readily available handguns.