Film / High And Low

A 1963 film directed by Akira Kurosawa and starring Toshiro Mifune, based on King's Ransom, an 87th Precinct novel by Ed McBain.

Kingo Gondo is a wealthy executive (the factory manager) for National Shoes. He's caught in a power struggle between a trio of directors who want to wrest control from the company's president, and the autocratic president himself. Behind the scenes, he's arranged a leveraged buyout that will give him control of the company so that he can run it his way. Just as he's committed himself to this course of action, mortgaging everything he has, Gondo is informed that his child Jun has been kidnapped, and the kidnapper demands a ludicrously high ransom.

Gondo is prepared to pay even if it ruins him, but then learns that his son is safe. Instead, the kidnapper has accidentally taken Shinichi, the son of Gondo's chauffeur. Gondo must now struggle with the moral dilemma of either bankrupting himself for another man's child...or letting the child die at the hands of the kidnapper.

While Gondo suffers from this dilemma, and the results of his decision, the police attempt to match wits with the kidnapper and bring him to justice.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Your child being kidnapped? Check. Financial ruin? Double check.
  • Big Bad: Ginjiro Takeuchi, the mastermind of Shinichi's kidnapping.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Shinichi is alive and safe, but his father has probably lost his job. Gondo loses his job, his wealth and all his possessions, but gains the respect of a nation and gets a lower-paying but more rewarding job with a smaller company. The police catch the kidnapper, but not before he's murdered his accomplices and an innocent bystander, and too late to save Gondo's wealth. And the kidnapper succeeds in destroying Gondo's wealth and position, but breaks down when he sees that Gondo himself is able to endure this.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Gondo's youth as a cobbler's apprentice comes in handy when the police need to hide something in briefcases.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The three directors want to take over National Shoes so that they can make gaudy but shoddy products at a high profit, assuming their customers will be easily fooled by advertising. The "Old Man", who is never seen, does not appear to be corrupt, but is autocratic and behind the times.
  • Cowboys and Indians: Jun and Shinichi play "Sheriff and Outlaw", then switch roles and outfits; this leads to the wrong boy being kidnapped.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Gondo's secretary Kawanishi defects to the side of the directors; he tries to disguise this as a Heel–Face Turn, but Gondo easily sees through it.
  • Film of the Book / Foreign Remake: Based on the novel King's Ransom by Ed McBain (pen name of Evan Hunter).
  • Freudian Excuse / Noodle Incident: It's hinted that the kidnapper's life has been hellish, including whatever gave him that nasty scar. But he decides not to tell Gondo about it, because he doesn't want to be pitied.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Gondo, while engaging in some sneaky dealings, wants to produce good quality and stylish shoes at a reasonable price as this will produce more profits in the long run.
  • Morality Chain: Gondo's wife Reiko, at first, and later his son Jun.
  • Phone-Trace Race: Police trying to trace the phone calls.
  • Police Procedural: Particularly in the second part of the film.
  • Ransom Drop: From a train per the kidnapper's meticulous instructions.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: The kidnapper's sunglasses always manage to have bright light reflecting in them.
  • Shoddy Knockoff Product: At the beginning of the movie, Gondo is being pressured into making crappier, cheaper and absolutely flimsy shoes at the National Shoe to drive up profits. He doesn't warm up to the idea at all.
  • Self-Made Man: Gondo worked his way up from cobbler's apprentice to the position he now occupies, though his marriage to Reiko did give him much more wealth to work with. (And note that this kind of upward social mobility would have been extremely rare in Japan at the time, making Gondo's moral dilemma even more harrowing.)
  • Splash of Color: A plume of pink smoke when the kidnapper disposes of evidence appears in color.
  • Villainous Breakdown
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Reiko