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Film / Stray Dog

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”A stray dog sees only what it chases”
Detective Sato

Stray Dog (野良犬 Nora Inu) is an Akira Kurosawa film from 1949, starring Toshiro Mifune.

Murakami, a rookie homicide cop (Mifune), has his pistol stolen from him by a pickpocket on a crowded Tokyo trolley. The plot follows Murakami in his efforts to track down and find the stolen gun. He's helped in his search by Sato, a more experienced detective (Takashi Shimura), but he's also wracked by guilt because the gun has been used to commit crimes.

One of the first films to deal with the "older detective trains younger detective" plot you can see in films like Se7en or Training Day.

No relation with the manga.

Tropes in this film:

  • The Atoner: Murakami wants to catch Yusa because he knows he has committed crimes using his gun.
  • Big Bad: Yusa, the criminal who steals Murakami's gun and uses it for various crimes, driving Murakami's search.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Murakami keeps a running tab on how many bullets are left in his gun. In the climactic scene Yusa is down to three bullets. He wings Murakami, but then shoots wild twice and is left with an empty chamber.
  • The Determinator: By God, Murakami will get that gun back.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Yusa loves a showgirl named Harumi, and often visits her after her shows. This ends up costing him, as Harumi tips Murakami to his location once she knows of Yusa's evil deeds.
  • Everybody Smokes: Natch.
  • Fanservice: A rather long shot of a room packed full of sweaty, heaving-bosom chorus girls, as they lie down and take a break after a performance.
  • Feet-First Introduction: After Murakami and Sato have spent the whole film tracking down Yusa, he's first introduced by his feet coming down the stairs of the hotel, while Sato phones Murakami from a booth in the lobby.
  • Film Noir: A rare non-American or European example.
  • From Bad to Worse: First, Murakami's gun gets stolen. Then, it gets used in a robbery that will likely cost one victim a chance to marry her sweetheart. It soon escalates even further to where Murakami's gun is used to murder a housewife and even nearly kill Sato. This final crime is what pushes Murakami to the brink of his guilt.
  • Geisha: Yusa patronizes a geisha house. Sato follows the investigative trail there at one point and talks to the girls.
  • Going by the Matchbook: Sato sees a matchbook in Harumi's house. He follows this clue to the hotel where the matchbook came from, which is where Yusa is hiding out.
  • Heat Wave: There's one throughout the film, pictured by having everyone using fans all the time.
  • Heroic BSoD: Murakami gets this when Sato is shot by Yusa. At the hospital, he cries and wails for Sato not to die, and then goes into a depression afterwards.
  • Mirror Character: A major theme of the movie is the many similarities between Murakami and Yusa. Both were soldiers returning after Japan's surrender, both were robbed of their packs on the way home from the war, both became angry at how postwar Japan treated its veterans. But Murakami went one way and joined the police force, while Yusa went the other way, into a life of crime. This is emphasized in the final shot with the two characters, when they both collapse gasping for air after Murakami finally puts the cuffs on Yusa.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: One of the earliest examples.
  • Red Light District: Murakami winds up searching through a crime- and hooker-filled red light district in search of his gun.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Hotheaded Murakami and calm, collected Sato.
  • Skyward Scream: Yusa lets one out after Murakami finally catches him.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Yusa only appears in two scenes (and his face is only seen in one), but his violent actions and the pursuit of him by the police drives the second half of the film
  • The Stoic: Sato. That doesn't mean he doesn't care, though.
  • Title Drop: Sato says that "a stray becomes a rabid dog" to explain how Yusa has gone off the chain and may become more violent.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: While Sato is phoning for backup at the hotel where Yusa is hiding out, the proprietor's wife soothes her crying baby by saying that a cop is there, which Yusa overhears, then bolts and shoots Sato trying to stop him. Thankfully averted as Sato survives.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Yusa screams and sobs when he's caught by Murakami.
  • The Voiceless: Although we hear sounds coming from Yusa, we never once hear him talk.