High and Low is not only one of Akira Kurosawa's best films but its also one of the greatest thrillers ever made. Sadly Akira Kurosawa is mostly known for his Samurai films, and some of his greatest works were outside of the Samurai genre (like John Ford's films outside of his Westerns.) High and Low is one of them, as it tells a story about a wealthy industrialist whose family is the target of a cold-blooded kidnapper. The film was originally an American thriller, based on Ed McBain's King's Ransom in 1959 and this is the first and only time Kurosawa ever used material that was from an American origin. What Akira Kurosawa did with the original material was shape it to produce a film that was a reflection and a contemporary map of Japan that ranges from the complacent and the rich, to the needy world of drugs, despair, and the poor.
What is fascinating is the unique layout of High and Low, because there's no real center of the story, and more two different halves. The first half explores the character of Gonzo and his struggling moral dilemma of willing to lose everything, all for a child that is not even his. The second half of the film is straight forward police procedural which focuses on Tokura and his men following clues, conducting interviews and investigating old audio tapes and photographs, to try and catch the kidnapper. In some ways Gonzo and the kidnapper are both very similar characters, because they both are power-hungry individuals who will crush whoever tries to get in their way of their diabolical get rich schemes, the only difference between the two of them is one works within the law and one works outside the law. High and Low is a masterfully well crafted thriller, but its also a social commentary on the rich and the poor, a criticism on corporate life and on Japanese society in the early 60's, showing that sometimes the poor can exploit the rich.