Takashi Shimura, Toshiro Mifune, Reizaburo Yamamoto, Michiyo Kogure,
Drunken Angel is a masterful gangster film, evoking the sinister shadows of American film noir and depicting with compassion the devalued life of underworld characters. It is, moreover, a perfect, poetic allegory of postwar Japan; the malaise of a society ravaged by war is symbolized by a disease-ridden sump near the center of the action—the Tokyo slum where the samaritan Dr. Sanada (Takashi Shimura) runs a neighborhood medical clinic. When an arrogant hoodlum (Mifune) is discovered to be tubercular, the two become locked in a struggle of mutual loathing and grudging respect. Their relationship is played out with subtlety, reflecting the moral ambiguities within both the “angel” and the gangster. Mifune’s astounding performance led Kurosawa to rethink his original conception and alter the script midway: “I decided to turn him loose,” he said.