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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 10 August 2006
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.
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I watched this a few days ago for about the fifth time and have been thinking about it ever since. I think it probably is my favorite Kurosawa film.

Toshiro Mifune plays a top executive in a shoe company who is secretly planning to take over the company. He wants to keep making quality shoes and gradually expand the market. The other executives want to make cheaper shoes and take advantage of the company's reputation. Mifune has raised every yen he can, including using his house, for the buyout, but his son is kidnapped. For the ransome he'll need all the money he's raised. He's prepared to do this for the sake of his son.

Then he finds out that the kidnappers made a mistake. They kidnapped his driver's son, who is the same age as his own. What a terrible moral dilemma. Would you or I give up every bit of money we had to save a neighbor's or an employee's son? Mifune does, and this act has a great effect on the police and the public.

The first half of the movie takes place in his house on a hill while all this unfolds. The second half is the chase to find the boy before he's killed and to capture the kidnapper. We move from the intensity of the dilemma unfolding in Mifune's home to the gritty business of the search which takes us into some of the lowest parts of the Japanese underworld.

Mifune is powerful in the role of the father, at first torn by the decision he has to make, then commited to finding his driver's son. Tatsuya Nakadai plays the detective, handsome, smooth, professional, and ultimately deeply touched by Mifune's integrity. Years later Nakadai played the leads in Kurosawa's Kagemusha and Ran. And it was good to see Mifune out of samurai costume.

High and Low is the work of a master.
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on 23 January 2002
This film is so huge and is executed with such depth and precision that you just cannot fault kurosawa.
His direction of this film is split, the first half of the film is shot looking up at the characters to suggest their power and life-style.
The second half looks down on the city and slums, as they seek the kidnapper and his or her associates. Mifune is flawless as is the whole film, its just brilliant, dynamic, tense, thrilling. This is the detective film by which all detective thrillers should be measured.
A real treat, enjoy.
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on 20 March 2014
A really good piece of entertainment. The film has left a big impression on me. A first part of the film takes place in the home of the main character and it felt like watching a play on stage. The second part of the film deals with more action and leads to a tragic climax. It will be one of my favourite film memories.
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on 7 May 2011
Nothing quite prepares you for this carefully researched, tightly scripted, superbly acted and very unusual Japanese crime thriller. It shows all of the stage managed filming for which Kurasawa and other Japanese directors were so famous and which so many Western films lack and I feel this is the films strength. Mifune plays out of type as a hard ambitious businessman who sees all of his dreams collapsing before him. The cops are simply brilliant and the strict social stereotyping of Japanese society is laid bare. A must for Mifune fans.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 October 2014
On the face of it this lengthy (140 minutes) 1963 Kurosawa 'police procedural’ (which is based on an Ed McBain novel) might appear to be essentially 'nothing more’ than the master’s director’s go at film noir – indeed, the film’s opening shot of the Tokyo skyline to Masaru Sato’s jazzy score reinforces this initial impression. However, it soon becomes clear that, as well as (during the film’s second half) treating us to an intricate, gripping 'policier’, Kurosawa also has Japan’s social divisions in his sights (once again) as Toshiro Mifune’s power-hungry industrialist, Kingo Gondo, is faced with a moral dilemma (capitalism vs. humanity?) as his chauffeur’s son is kidnapped (mistakenly instead of the businessman’s own son) and he is faced with a ransom demand which could scupper his career plans. For me, High And Low doesn’t always totally successfully mix its social comment and pure entertainment elements – however, it is a film of such virtuosity that it still works brilliantly (for the most part) on both levels.

The film’s 'first half’, as Gondo, faced with chief detective Tatsuya Nakadai’s Tokuro’s calm analysis of his unenviable predicament, struggles with his natural instincts against the 'moral pressure’ being applied by his wife (Kyoko Kagawa’s Reiko) and Yutaka Sada’s shrinking, subservient chauffeur (and father), Aoki, comes across almost as an ensemble theatre play – wordy and intricate, calling to my mind Twelve Angry Men, as Kurosawa and his cinematographers, Asakazu Nakai and Takao Saito, use the full-frame to brilliant effect. Half-time (so to speak) then consists of a fast-moving, visceral train ride as Gondo (with Tokuro’s cops in tow) makes a spectacular ransom delivery, before the film moves into its 'forensic procedural’ second-half. Here, Kurosawa particularly excels in his ensemble depictions, whether they be of Tokuro (and Takashi Shimura’s 'chief of investigation’ in, unfortunately, a rather peripheral role) and his detectives exhaustively examining leads and evidence in order to track down their kidnapper (and all in sweltering heat – in another link to Twelve Angry Men) or, as the net closes in on Tsutomu Yamkazi’s suitably mysterious and menacing villain, Takeuchi, during the superbly squalid sequence set in a 'drugs den’.

Kurosawa’s film is never less than an impressive piece of visual drama, plus the director peppers High And Low with some nice moments of humour. And, just when we think the film might be drifting off into a relatively 'standard’ ending, Kurosawa shakes us out of any such complacency with a stunning confrontation scene which is uncompromisingly stark and powerful.
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on 3 May 2010
Kurosawa's body of work is, to my mind, pretty much flawless.

High and Low is one of my favourites directed by him. It's one of his contemporary films (well, to when it was made anyway - modern is probably a better word) and though he's probably better known for his period dramas, this is as deserving of praise as anything else made by him (or anyone else, for that matter).

The film follows a wealthy shoe manufacturer, who is in the process of a risky take-over attempt of the company he is a major shareholder in, through his dilemma as a kidnapping takes place. The kidnapper mistakenly kidnaps his driver's son, instead of his, in attempt to blackmail him for a huge sum of money.

Initially, he believes that it was his son that was kidnapped, when the mistake is revealed, he then has to decide whether he wants to risk the boy's life or pay the ransom and ruin himself and his son financially.

This sets up the film for a good while (it's a long film, clocking in at over 140 minutes) before we move into the more thrilling sections of the film - which is a taut police-chase thriller.

As with everything that Kurosawa directed, this looks superb (in fact, I think it may have been the first film that he did in Tohoscope?) and, as ever, Toshirô Mifune gives a superb performance as the businessman.

Highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 March 2012
I watched this as part of the excellent BFI Kurosawa Crime Collection and is the newest disc in that set, from 1963.

Opening with fairly static shot interiors, whilst being quite interesting, they're hardly gripping. Businessmen talking about women's shoes is hardly a premise to an exciting Kurosawa thriller and starring the brooding Toshiro Mifune...

Yet, one is taken in and kept quietly involved as the kidnapper makes contact, gets the wrong youngster and the subsequent police investigation. Other reviewers have detailed all the twists and turns, so I'll keep mine to something simpler. After half an hour we are fully involved with police procedure, their professionalism and attitudes a distant cry to all those U.S thrillers where the cops just have to cut corners and be maverick oddballs.

Mifune is an understatement of diminished anguish as he jostles with conscience and business, especially compared with his usual aggressive samurai characterisations.

The film really picks up when it goes out into other parts of Japan by the Bullet Train and as the money is dropped, the pace and scale of the action is upped. It's all fascinating and the culmination set in the heroin dens and seedy Tokyo bars have us cranked up and set for the conclusion.

High and Low is a complex and fascinating crime thriller, shown in widescreen, gritty black and white. Very different to most other Kurosawa's, it must rank up there with his best.
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At present this 1963 obscurity is only available on BLU RAY in the States. But therein lies a problem for UK and European buyers…

The desirable US Criterion issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't).
Don’t confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front – that won’t help.

Until such time as "High And Low" is given a Region B release by someone else – check your BLU RAY player has the capacity to play REGION A - before you buy the pricey Criterion issue…
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on 19 September 2011
I liked this movie and the way it was constructed.The idea of looking at all the protagonists perspectives was well executed.
The film was certainly ahead of its time and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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