In Jersey City, an African American hit man follows "Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai." He lives alone, in simplicity with homing pigeons for company, calling himself Ghost Dog. His master, who saved his life eight years ago, is part of the local mob. When the boss' daughter witnesses one of Ghost Dog's hits, he becomes expendable. The first victims are his birds, and in response, Ghost Dog goes right at his attackers but does not want to harm his master or the young woman. On occasion, he talks with his best friend, a French-speaking Haitian who sells ice cream in the park, and with a child with whom he discusses books. Can he stay true to his code? And if he does, what is his fate? Written by
Jim Jarmusch stated in an interview that he wrote the role of Ghost Dog specifically for Forest Whitaker, and if Whitaker hadn't taken the role, the film probably would not have been made. See more »
In the scene where Ghost Dog practices his kenjutsu (sword technique), his sword is tucked into his sash with the curve of the blade pointed downwards. In the majority of iaijutsu (sword drawing) styles, the sword is tucked into the belt with the curve of the blade pointed upward, so that the act of drawing the sword from the scabbard (saya) can also serve as the first cut (kiri). See more »
Jim Jarmusch isn't exactly a household name when it comes to Hollywood directors. I don't know about other people, but personally I had heard of his name before, but certainly couldn't name any of his movies. Now that has changed. Since I've seen "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" I'll try to see at least a couple of his other movies as well, because I really liked this one.
"Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" is a quite unique movie. It tells the story of an African-American mafia hit-man in New York who lives by the rules of the Samurai, in simplicity and alone with his pigeons, who calls himself Ghost Dog and who is always faithful to his master, a local mobster who has saved his life several years ago. When the daughter of the local mob boss witnesses one of Ghost Dog's hits, he must die himself. The first victims are his birds and in response, Ghost Dog goes right at his attackers. He is lethal, but does not want to harm his master or the young woman. And while his life is in constant danger, the only people he ever has contact with are a little girl, with whom he discusses books, and a Haitian ice cream man who only speaks French and doesn't understand a word of what Ghost Dog tells him.
I guess the best way to categorize this movie is to call it a mix of the movie "Léon", the Samurai code and hip-hop culture. Normally you would think that such a mix could never work, but this time it does. I admit that it certainly isn't a normal mix, but Jarmusch avoids the traps that would make this original and daring movie a complete waste of time and which would turn it into one unbelievable and unrealistic mess. I know it sounds strange, how can a movie that combines Italian, Japanese and hip-hop culture into one ever become one solid movie? Don't ask me, I don't even know how he came up with the idea, but it works and that's all that matters.
This movie has several strong points. One is the way everything is told and shown, which make this a sober, but powerful movie. Especially with the quotes that are taken from the Way of the Samurai and that are voiced by Forest Whitaker, a solid base is formed. This helps you to understand why the man does what he does, why he lives his life like that and why he will always respect his master. If this hadn't been in the movie, I would probably not have liked it a bit. The other strong point is the acting. The mobsters look a bit stereotypical, but are well portrayed by people like Cliff Gorman, John Tormey, Richard Portnow,... but the best performance definitely comes from Forest Whitaker. Normally Whitaker plays the role of a good guy, like for instance Jody in "The Crying Game" or Captain Ramey in "Phone Boot" and it has to be said, he really has some talent for that kind of roles. But, as he proves with this movie, he is capable of a lot more. He plays the role of the samurai hit man, doesn't look like he's fit for that role at all (at least, I would never think of him when it comes to that role), but does it really very well.
As a conclusion I would like to add that the sound track is also very nice. Normally I'm not too much a fan of hip hop in the movies, although I can appreciate it as a form of music on itself, but this time it really works. Add to this some nice acting, a cool and well-written story, some funny moments (like for instance a rapping mobster) and what you'll get is a movie that is fun and interesting to watch. I give it an 8/10.
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