Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

"Excellent"

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Review


Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai embodies a variety of genres from Mobster to Urban to Martial Arts. Jarmusch, critically acclaimed for Mystery Train (1989) and Stranger Than Paradise (1984), stays true to his uniquely languid and methodical style in telling the fascinating story of Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker - The Crying Game, Phenomenon), a contract killer who has isolated himself from society by taking refuge in a shack atop an inner city rooftop that he shares with a flock of pigeons.

Ghost Dog studies the early eighteenth century Japanese warrior code from the book, Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai, and the story is told as a sequence of verses from the ancient text. Each morning he bows to the altar he has constructed and practices the ancient disciplines of the samurai training. In the spirit of the ancient warriors, he has pledged his loyalty to a single master, a small-time mobster named Louie (John Tormey - Kiss Me Guido, Jungle 2 Jungle), who saved Ghost Dog's life when he was young. As an assassin, Ghost Dog communicates only via carrier pigeon and moves through the night like a phantom, killing with the skill and speed of a true Samurai.

Louie is a foot soldier in a struggling and aging crime family headed by Ray Vargo (Henry Silva). Acting on orders, Louie hires Ghost Dog to kill Handsome Frank (Richard Portnow), a "made man" and lover of the boss' daughter Louise (Tricia Vessey). Unfortunately, Louise happens to be in Frank's apartment when Ghost Dog offs Handsome Frank, and now the infuriated mob boss Vargo wants the hit-man dead. Using the wisdom and insight that he has learned from Hagakure and other ancient Eastern books, Ghost Dog must now confront the notorious crime family, or die.

Jarmusch's signature of inimitable characters with distinctive humor is apparent throughout, as both the mobsters and Ghost Dog are ruthless yet remain loveable. The film's score is a compilation of hip-hop and reggae beats done by The Rza, Wu Tang Clan's founder, and it effectively underscores Ghost Dog's ascetic spirituality along with the harsh tones of the surrounding urban environment. The story is well written, and Forest Whitaker's performance is moving. Also noteworthy is the jovial, French, ice cream vendor, Raymond (Isaach De Bankole). Raymond doesn't understand a word of English, and Ghost Dog doesn't speak any French, yet the two have a platonic understanding of one another that lets them speak, despite the language barrier.

On the flip side, my only qualm is that the film is too slow at certain points and may have benefited from some good editing. Also, Ghost Dog's stroll is appropriately meticulous in keeping with the method of the Samurai, but towards the end, I was fed up with his overly deliberate pace.

All in all, I highly recommend Ghost Dog -- it is truly an original. No other filmmaker has made such a bold statement about the parallels of societal violence that exist between cultures, whether Ancient Eastern, Mafioso, or Urban gangster. Fans of any of the three genres will be sure to enjoy this one.

Dog show.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 116 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 6th October 1999

Distributed by: Artisan Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 77 Rotten: 17

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Ghost Dog, as Sonny Valerio, as Louise Vargo, as Ray Vargo, as Vinny, as Joe Rags, as Louie, Damon Whitaker as Ghost Dog (Child), as Big Angie, as Handsome Frank, as Old Consigliere, as Bodyguard, as Samurai, as Raymond

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.