Kurosawa's modern dress movies are generally less well-known than his samurai masterpieces, but critically "Ikiru" (aka "Living") has long been regarded as one of his finest films, and the same is sometimes said of this intricate police thriller.
"High and Low" is really two films in one. The first an enclosed, philosophical drama in which Toshiru Mifune gives a restrained but powerful performance as the wealthy man being blackmailed. Stagey, slightly Bergmanesque, it will not suit all contemporary viewers but it sets up the second movie: a gripping police thriller that follows the dragnet tightening on the blackmailer.
Taken as a whole the film is epic in two senses: not only is it long, at 143 minutes, but also it has a grand vision. Japanese society from the top to the bottom is the subject, and although the source material (an American thriller) remains visible, it is the director's observations of his own country that work best and stick in the mind.
This film is not ultimately as humane as "Seven Samurai" or "Hidden Fortress", but fans, for example, of the morally serious thrillers of Sidney Lumet will want to add this DVD to their collection.