When I first saw this film, it took my breath away. Mifune's performance is absolutely overpowering, and the whole structure and pace of the film is just right. It is one of my favorite of Kurosawa's films, and the fact that it is now finally being released to the public thrills me. It has not been very available and is probably the most underappreciated of Kurosawa's masterpieces.
Drunken Angel is a contemporary tale of the squalor of postwar Japanese society, and of an angel shining his light through the darkness to help those few he can. This film introduces for the first time many themes, symbols, and ideas that recieve their consummate expression in Kurosawa's later films, such as Ikiru, and even beyond, and around which Kurosawa's entire body of work revolves.
We see in the gangster the first lead performance of Toshiro Mifune, one of the greatest actors ever to honor the cinema with his presence, and in the doctor the first truly great performance by Takashi Shimura, the most reliable and talented actor in the Kurosawa group. This role also helps to contribute in subtle ways to his greatest performance, that of Watanabe in Ikiru.
And of Kurosawa himself, what can I say, he has once again left me at a loss for words. The end fight sequence with the mirror and the paint is pure cinematic genius.
So this film is a definite must see, not only for fans of Kurosawa, but for the entire world. It has my highest recommendation.