Friday, April 8, 2011

High and Low (1963)

Kidnapping can be a highly lucrative venture. Especially if you kidnap the son of a wealthy businessman (Toshiro Mifune). But what if you accidentally kidnap the son of the businessman’s chauffer instead? And what if paying that ransom will bankrupt the businessman? Would you throw away your family’s livelihood for the life of a person you have no blood relation to?

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Samurai showdowns are insanely tense. You don’t just go willy-nilly chopping at your opponent. Most of the battle is spent observing, finding a weakness and, when the moment is right - attacking. Akira Kurosawa excelled at this tension in film after film about warriors in ancient Japan. But it was in his non-period masterpiece High and Low that the full magnitude of his mastery came to the fore.

Though High and Low is a long film, it never feels so. The story is set in motion very early on and from there the tension takes hold and carries you through the remainder of the picture. Through the decision whether or not to pay the ransom and through the relentless pursuit of the responsible parties you are constantly on the edge or your seat. Right down to the climactic confrontation. This film is so powerful that it actually aided in reforming kidnapping laws in Japan.

As of this writing it is available for instant streaming on Netflix so...SEE IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

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