Drunken Angel is the second early Kurosawa film I've watched in recent days, the first being Stray Dog. The two movies share a lot more than their director and leading man, Kurosawa and his favorite leading man Toshiro Mifune. Their post-war Tokyo settings make the perfect backdrop for noir that is distinctly Japanese, and each film is about the lead characters struggling to reconcile their position in life with the person they want to be.
Structurally, the biggest similarity is the fight that becomes the final confrontation in each film. They are both shot impeccably and deliberately, but the fights themselves are clumsy and realistic. Mifune's movements seem desperate and authentic, something we so rarely get to see any more now that fights must be slick and impressively choreographed (ironically, this trend comes from Eastern films).
But despite these similarities, I enjoyed Stray Dog much more. Part of this is the noir-styled mystery at the heart of that later film - it's more exciting and engaging than the melodramatic relationship between the two leads here that is the core of the film. But I also really loved seeing Kurosawa execute a film in such an experimental fashion in Stray Dog. That movie just seems so much more illuminating with regards to Kurosawa's developing voice whereas Drunken Angel feels more like a talented director making a movie before he had an identity. I enjoyed Drunken Angel, but it's Stray Dog that in my opinion kicked off Kurosawa's renaissance.