Synopsis. High and Low is a 1963 Japanese movie about a wealthy man who must deal with a kidnapper and the consequences.
More Detail. High and Low is a 143 minute film that divided into two parts.
Part 1. A wealthy shoe executive, Kingo Gondo, receives the call no parent wants. His child has been kidnapped and the ransom is a hefty 30 million. When his child walks into the living room, he and his wife are stunned. Wait a minute, the chauffeur’s child (his son’s playmate) has been kidnapped by mistake. Will Gondo pay the ransom for his chauffeur’s child?
Part 2. After the safe return of the chauffeurs son, the police investigation to track down the kidnapper begins. The team investigating the identity of the kidnapper is large, focused and relentless. Will the kidnapper be caught? What was the motive for the kidnapping?
What I Liked about High and Low:
Kingo Gondo portrayed by Toshiro Mifune, was relatable as he struggled with the consequences of the kidnapping. Should he pay the ransom for his chauffeur’ s child? How does he deal with being bankrupt after the ransom money is lost? Will he ever know why he was targeted? Gondo was passionate about his business. At the beginning of the film he is ready to pull a power play to buy controlling interest in the company. Once the child is kidnapped, that money goes to the kidnapper. Gondo ends up fired from his job. His home and contents marked for auction. Gondo maintained his dignity throughout the entire film. My favorite moment is when he helped the police sew in powders in the suitcase that could help locate the briefcase should it be burned. I liked the way he asked his wife to get his shoe maker tools then sat on the floor and modified the briefcases.
Chief Detective Tokura played by Tatsuya Nakadai, was sensitive helping the family through the kidnapping process then was doggedly determined that he and his team would find and bring the kidnapper to justice. Frankly in the first part of the film, the police seemed ineffective so I was pleased at the strength of their focus to capture the kidnapper in the second half of the film. Chief Detective Tokura effectively lead a large team of police officers. In most crime dramas, the police team is typically 5 or less. The team on this case was over 15 officers, with 4 key officers. I liked each police officer. They were honest, down to earth, and cared about justice. Lovely to see. Chief Detective Tokura was focused and unrelentingly to right the wrong to the family.
High and Low directed by Akira Kurosawa. This is my second film by Akira Kurosawa, the first was Seven Samurai (see review). This film had a good flow to it. Part 1, the kidnapping section, had tension; would Gondo pay? would the child be recovered? Part 2, the police investigation, was my favorite. The police officers were determined to identify the kidnapper, return the ransom money to get Gondo out of debt, and bring the kidnapper to justice.
High and Low was a film about the privileged wealthy, Gondo, and the sometimes resentful lower class, the kidnapper. It was fascinating to see heroin addicts worked into the film, heroin alley filled with junkies, and a jazz club too. All of these elements were unexpected and woven into the story perfectly. I did not expect to see society commented upon through this film. But High and Low did address societal differences. The writers Eijirō Hisaita, Ryuzo Kikushima, Akira Kurosawa, and Hideo Oguni must be commended for crafting an intriguing story with an ending that closed the book but had a rough edge to it.
This film surprised me with the tense first half kidnapping that transitioned into a thorough investigation of the crime that then transitioned to the tense catch the kidnapper section. The societal commentary was the cherry on the top of this fine film.
Check out the trailer via this link or embedded below: