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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Cast: Forest Whitaker, Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, more...
Director: Jim Jarmusch, Jim Jarmusch
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Live/Artisan
Genre: Independent, Parodies, Crime, Gangsters
Running Time: 116 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: English
    see additional details...

A surreal crime drama told as only Jim Jarmusch could, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai stars Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog, a hit man living in an unidentified but run-down city in what license plates call "The Industrialized State." Known for his gift of being able to come and go without people noticing him, Ghost Dog is a self-taught samurai who is obsessed with order and his strict personal moral code, drawn from the philosophies of the Japanese warriors. As every samurai needs a leader to whom he swears loyalty, Ghost Dog has devoted himself the service of Louie (John Tormey), a low-level crime boss who once saved his life. When Louie's superiors decide he must be executed, Ghost Dog leaps into action, methodically wiping out his many enemies. Along with a dizzying series of stylized shoot-outs, Ghost Dog also features carrier pigeons, characters who read Rashomon, a French-speaking ice cream man, and a score by RZA from the top-selling hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, who have their own well-documented obsession with Asian culture. Ghost Dog was screened in competition at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

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GreenCine Member Reviews

Avoid this movie by tpaddack November 15, 2004 - 10:39 AM PST
1 out of 8 members found this review helpful
I was told that I would enjoy this movie, but found little here to like. The plot slowly limps along at a lame pace as the director tries to make some sort of statement on how miserable life is. Each chapter of this story is punctuated with a ancient proverb, which is usually too mystical to make much sense, let alone fit into the plot, supposedly taken from the Samurai code and then laconically narrated by Whittaker. There are too many pointless sequences of Ghost dog driving through the ghetto in a fancy (and recently stolen) expensive cars as we are treated to the sounds of the Wu Tang Clan and Forrest Whittaker stares out the window with a blank, half pained look on his face. There are too many unanswered questions such as Ghost Dog's past, how he became this powerful samurai, who taught his to bred pigeons, or how to use such assassin weapons, where does he get his radio technology to easily steal fancy cars with (no long slim-jim for this guy), not to mention why does his 'best friend' insist on speaking only French when he obviously understands English. Most of all, if this guy is such a professional, who trained him? The Army? Where did he first get his money from to buy such expensive weapons? And this is just for starters as there are so many more. But most of all, it's never made clear why the mob wants to kill him. First they hire him to kill someone and when he does, they decide to kill him in revenge. If you can suspend disbelief of all these unanswered questions, a senseless plot, not to mention Jim Jarmusch's indulgent time filler sequences, then there are some entertaining things in this movie. But there are not many.

Excellent, especially Whitaker by mason January 6, 2003 - 2:52 PM PST
9 out of 11 members found this review helpful
I've been quite a fan of Jarmusch, but I must still admit that his pacing can often leave viewers nonplussed. A great as I think "Stranger Than Paradise" may be, I can nonetheless understand it when friends tell me they can't stand it. "Ghost Dog" would be the one to change their minds about Jarmusch, I think. Forest Whitaker is marvelous, as always, portraying a modern-day samurai whose dedication to the man who once saved his life may end up sacrificing that same life. As Jarmusch says in the 'making of' documentary also included here, he wanted to make a movie about a killer who would still be a sympathetic character. Casting Whitaker went a long way towards achieving that goal. The semi-comic elements here are understated and thankfully don't lead things astray into goofiness -- instead they help lighten the mood without killing it. The soundtrack by Wu-Tang's RZA is superb as well; his distressed beats are an ideal match for the pacing and the atmosphere. The movie does have a few holes, but nothing that interferes with enjoyment of Whitaker's near-perfect portrayal.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.09)
585 Votes
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