Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai

Review Date:
Director: Jim Jarmush
Writer: Jim Jarmush
Producers: Jim Jarmush and Richard Guay
Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog, John Tormey as Louie
The life of a loner, black, samurai hitman for the Italian mafia is uprooted when the mobsters decide that they don’t exactly want him around any longer.
A quirky, unique fable featuring the most original character to hit the screen in years, a kickass, groovy atmospheric hip-hop soundtrack, funny, absorbing characters, all spread underneath a comforting layer of deep philosophical Samurai gospel. Sound interesting to you? Well, like I said earlier, initially this film didn’t appeal to me either, but having seen it, I feel like going out and buying myself a goddamn Ghost Dog T-Shirt! That guy rules! And if you think Vin Diesel rocked in PITCH BLACK (7/10), wait until you see this mutha! He’s a mix between Travis Bickle and Jean Reno’s character from THE PROFESSIONAL, all spliced beneath an entertaining layer of Zen-like philosophies. He’s also a wee bit mysterious. Of course, this film isn’t for everyone. I could see how this wouldn’t really “play” in the big houses, with its deliberately slow pace, unusual tactics (one dude speaks French the whole movie with subtitles) and overbearing soundtrack, but it’s like I said…it all seemed to work for me!

Maybe it’s because I am really sick of all the same formula granola that I’ve been served for the first couple of months of this movie season, or maybe I just really haven’t seen a character this cool in a long, long time, but no matter what the reason, this film just grew on me despite having its slow moments and symbolic undertones. Did I really understand all the flashcards spouting samurai parables between every other scene? No way, in fact, I didn’t get most of them, but strangely felt compelled to listen closely and ponder over every one. Am I losing it? Perhaps. Some might say that I am “growing”, since I actually liked a “Jim Jarmush” film (mind you, it’s a watered down Jarmush). All’s I know is that this movie had a compelling little tale to tell, one bad mutha as its lead, Forest Whitaker and his lazy eye performing admirably, and surprisingly, plenty of humor to pepper along the way. I especially loved all of the third rate mobsters, obviously spent and past their prime, but still acting very much their role. And let’s not forget the bloodshed, kids. Okay, so it’s not a Schwarzenegger body count, but considering that our Mr. Ghost Dog is, in fact, a hitman…plenty of murders do take place. All of which are handled with great style and technique. Of course, the man is extremely serious about his job (when he’s not talking to pigeons that is), likes to live his life according to the ancient teachings of the Japanese samurai and even swishes his gun into his holster, just as a seasoned samurai would his sword.

All in all, a refreshing new gangster film featuring a standout performance by Whitaker, many funny moments, the original stylings of Jimmy Jarmush and an extra cool soundtrack. A soundtrack that will be making an appearance in my collection any day now.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian

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