Wars take their toll on winners and losers alike with the commonfolk feeling aftereffects long after the cessation of hostilities. Japan in late 1940s was recovering from WW2 battering with many of its soldiers trying to bury the bloody war past behind and assimilate into the society. Some succeeded, some did not. Those who did not, strayed into dangerous paths creating problems for themselves and others around. Stray Dog is the story of one such soldier gone astray.
This movie brings together Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune; Shimura as Officer Sato, an experienced and renowned investigator who takes rookie Murakami (Mifune) under his wings. Tishiro Mifune is young, looks handsome, and fits neatly into the rookie policeman's role.
One day travelling home by bus after his shooting practice, Murakami realizes that his pistol is stolen. He chases a suspicious character but loses his trail in bylanes of the city. Dejected and fearing reprisal from his department, he submits his resignation. But the supervisor gives him a reprieve and asks him to assist Sato in recovering the pistol.
Together they sweat it out in the hot weather, following every lead possible in the city's underbelly. It is not easy to get leads or (when they do) any information from them. But they keep at it. At the same time, the guy they are after starts wreaking havoc in the city. With every bullet fired and later verified by Forensics to be from his own pistol, Murakami gets more and more dejected. It takes much support from Sato to get him back from dejection onto the path of investigation.The pace of investigation is slow and the breakthroughs happen in due course (quite literally, after much sweating) not as proofs of their brilliance, but as rewards for doggedly battling the weather and all other odds.
Sato and Murakami piece together the profile of the thief, now a killer - a soldier back from the war, unable to assimilate into the society, takes the wrong path, unable to control the bouts of anger and depression starts hurting people around him. He is just like Murakami, but gone badly astray.
The skies open up at last and so does one of the informants after much coaxing, and puts them on the track to nab the thief. Murakami earns his first citation for bravery in nabbing the killer.
The narration is unhurried, but doesn't go out of control - which I notice is typical of Kurosawa movies. Though I was riveted to the happenings for the entire duration of the movie, think some sequences dragged a bit. Also, apart from a scene in the initial part that's shown without dialogue and goes on for about 5 minutes showing Murakami scouring seedy parts of City to find the culprit (its reported that this scene was shot by Kurosawa's assistant, Ishiro Honda who later would become a renowed director in his own right)- there aren't any scenes that made a big impression on me.