Following the two popular samurai comedies “Yojimbo” and “Sanjuro”, Akira Kurosawa and stars Toshiro Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai head in a different direction with this taught police procedural (“Heaven and Hell” in the original Japanese title, adapted from the American novel “King’s Ransom” by Ed McBain), about a shoe executive (Mifune) who becomes the target of an extortionist kidnapper who demands 30 million or the son of a chauffeur will be murdered. The hitch, the price is so enormous that it will all but ruin the wealthy exec, who had plans of a takeover with the money, but is it worth the price of an innocent child? Nakadai is the chief investigator who painstakingly tracks the clues after a money drop off on a speeding train, an exciting bit of aggressive multi-camera film-making that splits the film in two, following an hour long chamber drama that never leaves Mifune’s mansion, to the concluding tour of Yokohama and the sweltering slums, nightclubs, and drug alleys the kidnapper (Tsutomu Yamakazi) haunts. Filmed in masterfully controlled long takes by two of the director’s best cameramen, Asakazu Nakai and Takao Saito, and then seamlessly edited by Kurosawa into two distinct styles, corresponding to the two sections (A-B montage during the “heaven” chamber drama, surreal angles and documentary procedural during the Yokohama “hell” conclusion), the film fits perfectly into Kurosawa’s early ’60’s domination of wide-screen composition and cutting sans master shot, which would reach its peak two years later with the jidai-geki “Red Beard”. In Kurosawa’s canon “High and Low” best compares with the 1949 drama “Stray Dog”, which also critiques Japanese social structure within a police search, but where “Stray Dog” used the immediate post-war reconstruction and black market for a target, here Kurosawa sets his political sights on big business, kidnapping laws, and the obvious disparity between those who make the rules and those who toil in the muck unwilling to accept them, which makes this a film, rare in Kurosawa’s cinema, without obvious heroes.