John Tai’s review published on Letterboxd:
Akira Kurosawa is favorite director of mine, but I'm ashamed to admit that I have only watched 1/3 of his movies. Here's me trying to remedy that.
High and Low is not a samurai movie, instead it is a contemporary crime story about the kidnapping of a boy.
The first part is all about Toshiro Mifune's character struggling with his financial life, trying to decide if he should pay the random or not. This mainly takes place in his villa, so it feels almost like a theater play. Kurosawa shot this part of the movie very meticulously, following every actor's movement with the camera, almost as if it were a ballet. The shot composition is just perfect, it's clear that everything was planned in detail.
The second part of the movie is all about the police investigation. We see how they follow every lead, every witness, every little detail. There is a scene that sees all the different police departments have a meeting to report on their discoveries and follow up. The room is full of people, and we hear from them group by group. This is a very meticulous procedural, years before the various crime movies and tv shows started to be popular.
Once they discover the kidnapper's identity, it's all about how to capture him in order to get the maximum sentence. That means catching him in a murder. This is a very tense sequence, that sees the kidnapper at the center of the story.
I really like the structure of the screenplay. First we meet the characters and start to care about them. Then we see almost a cold procedural, interesting but ultimately very cold. But that doesn't matter, because we're already invested in the characters, and we're just rooting for the police. The last part could have been shorter, after waiting so long to capture the kidnapper, I didn't need another protracted sequence.
Overall this is another great Kurosawa film, a non-samurai one. The only other non-samurai movies I've watched are Dreams and Rhapsody in August.