“The Bad Sleep Well” – Chris Luedtke

The first question that brought to my mind after seeing Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well was, “Why would someone do a job they didn’t like?” Is it for the money, honor, comfort? The simplicity or complexity of it? The people or the lack thereof? The questions keep piling from on. But what if your career literally became the death of you? How comfortable are you with this idea? How would your family and friends feel? The Bad Sleep Well addresses these ideas with subtle yet strong taste for vengeance in one of Kurosawa’s finest flicks.

Koichi Nishi (Toshiro Mifune) is angered after his father’s death and blames his company for his untimely demise. With a chip on his shoulder, Nishi infiltrates the savage workforce and quickly begins to mess with P.R., co-workers and higher-ups, even going as far as to marry the daughter (Kyôko Kagawa) of the vice president of Public Corporation (Masayuki Mori). Slowly, Nishi begins to tamper with the sanity of his co-workers and the stability of the company in hopes of bringing it down and avenging his father’s death.

It’s been said before, countless times by countless critics: no one could make a film like Akira Kurosawa could. Once more, Kurosawa throws us a gorgeous piece of cinema with The Bad Sleep Well. The idea of vengeance has been a stalwart in film, and we never seem to tire of it. The Bad Sleep Well is another amazing nail in this genre’s frame. Kurosawa’s precise calculation and careful characterization make it intoxicating, although Nishi’s quest is something that we find difficult to sympathize with. We become familiar with Public Corporation’s metaphorical and literal families, especially the overly protective brother Tatsuo (Tatsuya Mihashi). These scenes set the viewer at ease, though the story throws us for a loop when we step into Nishi’s shoes.

Mifune gives us another stellar performance. I have become convinced that this man can do nothing but bring out the best in any character. His quest is brilliantly executed, slowly deceiving co-workers and driving them to the point of insanity — unless they’re just playing along with his game. Kurosawa does a good job making sure that no character comes off as stupid. VP Iwabuchi is constantly on the tail of Nishi and, often without Nishi knowing it, breathing down his neck. The contrast of good against evil becomes a frightening blur. However, when we’re thrown into the shocking ending, we have a very clear definition and feel as though we never should have doubted the film in the first place.

The Bad Sleep Well ranks among Kurosawa’s best. It’s a step away from the samurai dramas that made him famous, but he proves to be a master of multiple genres. Definitely go out and grab The Bad Sleep Well. It’ll captivate you, from the head-scratching opening to the jaw-dropping finale.

Rating: ★★★★

-Chris Luedtke

Read A.J. Hakari’s The Bad Sleep Well review here.

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