Stray Dog (Nora inu) is a movie that was released in 1949 by the legendary Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa has become known as one of Japan’s greatest directors. His movies mainly travel in a historical setting, but with Stray Dog he instead takes the viewer to post-war Japan. This movie also strays away from his fairy-tale type story telling to features a more down-to-earth, police situation film-noir. As is with most Kurosawa movies, Stray Dog stars his favorite actor, Toshirô Mifune. This time Mifune plays a detective.
The movie begins with a young policeman (played by Mifune) named Detective Murakami. Murakami is in the middle of using the commuter bus to travel somewhere. The summer is extremely hot and Murakami is distracted. As he leaves the bus he realizes that his gun is missing. He then sees the thief fleeing and attempts to chase him down but loses him in the crowd. He heads to his precinct, head low, ashamed. He is ready to give in his resignation because of the fact that a criminal was able to steal his weapon.
The chief of the precinct tells Murakami that instead of resigning he needs to find the thief, and his gun, before it can be used to commit any crimes. Murakami changes his clothes so that he blends in better with the street crowd and hits the streets to find his pistol. Days go on and Murakami has no luck. He gets increasingly frustrated and desperate and does not know where to turn. A few days into the search a robbery is committed and one of the guns that was used during it is suspected to be Murakami’s! His chief decides to make him work with a partner in order to find the gun before it can be used again.
Detective Sato is a veteran in the police force. Because of his many years as a detective, he has places he can go, and people he can tap, that Murakami can not. The two start out looking for the gun and manage to finally get some leads. As the days pass they both realize that there are times when you have to become a criminal in order to stop a criminal. Their search leads them to a woman. She is the lover of the man that originally stole the gun from Murakami. She explains that he stole the gun so that he could buy beautiful things just for her. Things that she believes she deserves.
Murakami and Sato lay a trap for the thief, but he finds out about it and manages to get away. During the scuffle he wounds Detective Sato, leaving Detective Murakami once again on his own to find the thief.
This movie is not like many Kurosawa films, and indeed one has to look at the credits in order to be sure that it is a Kurosawa film. It is, however, an extremely well-thought out movie that leaves the viewer anticipating every step of the two officers.