Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Bad Sleep Well (1960) & Stray Dog (1949)

I recently tuned in on Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa. I guess he's a pretty big name in Japan, with over 25 movies and a buttload of awards between 1943 and 1993 (he died in 1998). The two movies I've seen (so far) are older - 1960 and 1949 - and have an intense, gritty film noir sense that I really liked.

First one I saw is called The Bad Sleep Well (悪い奴ほどよく眠る) (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru), released in 1960. The story involves a guy, Koichi Nishi (Toshirō Mifune), who's plotting revenge for his father's death at the hands of a corrupt corporate businessman. He's managed to worm his way into this bad guy's life on both the work and home fronts by becoming his personal secretary and then *marrying* his daughter. Now that's a hardcore vengeance-seeker.

And, not that I'm cultured enough to have recognized it, but apparently the film gives more than a passing nod toward Shakespeare's Hamlet, with Toshirō Mifune playing the Hamletesque character. Who knew.

Anyway, this thing's got enough plot twists to, uh... [insert witty comparison here] and the tension that builds throughout makes it a real nail biter. If I bit my nails. As it was, I just really enjoyed the film.

Well worth the 151 minutes it takes to watch. 5 brains.

The second Kurosawa film I saw is Stray Dog (野良犬) (Nora inu), from 1949. Also a very cool movie, but (unlike the previous) with a straightforward, simple plot line: cop loses his gun and tries to get it back.

Murakami (Toshirō Mifune) is a rookie cop who gets his gun stolen by a pickpocket on the bus ride home. Well, he's a pretty uptight guy to begin with, so he gets all bent out of shape trying to track the thing down. When he finds out the gun (having passed hands a few times) has been used in a robbery where a woman was wounded, he gets pretty frantic.

Things go from bad to worse and the gun ends up being used in a murder. Murakami is near breakdown status now and is gonna get his gun back at any cost. Throughout this process, he's paired up with an older, seasoned, cop whose trying to teach him to relax and not get so worked up over every little thing. The film's got plenty of action, but it's the relationship building between these two characters that make it great.

This one clocks in at 122 minutes (remember when movies under 2 hours were the exception, rather than the rule?) and is also well worth your time. 5 brains.