7.5/10
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361 user 166 critic

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Trailer
1:30 | Trailer
An African-American Mafia hit man who models himself after the samurai of old finds himself targeted for death by the mob.

Director:

Jim Jarmusch

Writer:

Jim Jarmusch
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Popularity
4,179 ( 301)
1 win & 8 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Forest Whitaker ... Ghost Dog
John Tormey ... Louie
Cliff Gorman ... Sonny Valerio
Dennis Liu Dennis Liu ... Chinese Restaurant Owner
Frank Minucci Frank Minucci ... Big Angie
Richard Portnow ... Handsome Frank
Tricia Vessey ... Louise Vargo
Henry Silva ... Ray Vargo
Gene Ruffini Gene Ruffini ... Old Consigliere
Frank Adonis ... Valerio's Bodyguard
Victor Argo ... Vinny
Damon Whitaker ... Young Ghost Dog
Kenny Guay Kenny Guay ... Boy in Window
Vince Viverito Vince Viverito ... Johnny Morini
Gano Grills ... Gangsta in Red
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Storyline

A hitman who lives by the code of the samurai, works for the mafia and finds himself in their crosshairs when his recent job doesn't go according to plan. Now he must find a way to defend himself and his honor while retaining the code he lives by. Written by Scott Jarreau

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Live by the code. Die by the code. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Forest Whitaker and Isaach De Bankolé would later co-star in Black Panther (2018) by Ryan Coogler. See more »

Goofs

When Ray is riding in the limo watching cartoons, he starts out with two flowers in lapel, then he only has one. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords. Being carried away by surging waves. Being thrown into the midst of a great fire. Being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake. Falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease, or committing seppuku at the death of one's ...
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Crazy Credits

The second to last person thanked at the credits' close is Akira Kurosawa--the Japanese filmmaker who filmed one of the Ghost Dog's central texts, Rashomon. See more »

Connections

References Rashomon (1950) See more »

Soundtracks

Armagideon Time
Performed by Willi Williams (as Willie Williams)
Written by Willi Williams (as Willie Williams) and Coxsone Dodd (as Clement Dodd)
Published by Jamrec Publishing (BMI)
Administered by Happy Valley Music (BMI)
Courtesy of Studio One/Heartbeat Records
By Arrangement with Ocean Park Music Group
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User Reviews

 
Out of Character For Jarmusch
8 January 2006 | by brainofj72See all my reviews

Ghost Dog certainly is an intriguing film. It breaks some new ground for writer/director Jim Jarmusch, who usually creates simple, funny, and heartfelt black and white films with many underlying themes. Ghost Dog is one of his few color films, and it is also the most out of character picture he has made to date. Instead of a slow-paced comedic drama, Ghost Dog is a slow-paced bloody crime film.

The plot deals with Ghost Dog (Whitaker), an expert mafia assassin living in present-day New York City who lives his life according to the ancient code of the Samurai.

Jarmusch somewhat reverses what Akira Kurosawa did in Throne of Blood by bringing Eastern culture to a Western setting. It's a rather fascinating idea, but I can't help but feel that Jarmusch kind of falls into a trap he teeters on almost constantly in his films: while he's so busy creating a slow, brooding atmosphere and interweaving subtle underlying themes, he occasionally forgets that this is still a movie. He still needs to keep the audience entertained. Ghost Dog sometimes moves so slowly that one becomes a little bit bored and anxious.

Another thing that doesn't work particularly well in Ghost Dog are Jarmusch's signature scenes of off-beat humor that often just come completely out of nowhere. They usually work quite well, such as Iggy Pop's and Billy Bob Thornton's blackly funny scene in Dead Man, but they just feel awkward here. E.g., Jarmusch develops a very peculiar group of gangsters in Ghost Dog, gangsters who think they're straight out of GoodFellas but are so incompetent that they can't even pay their rent nor figure out who they're trying to "whack". This is often quite amusing, but sometimes Jarmusch just goes over the top, such as when he makes one of the fifty-something Italian gangsters begin going on about how he loves rap and even start rapping his favorite verses right in the middle of a meeting of criminals. It's just uncomfortable.

Still, there's plenty to like here, and there are quite a few homages for avid film-lovers to spot, such as a cool little nod to the butterfly scene in Seijun Suzuki's Branded To Kill. Also, the acting is often spot-on. Forest Whitaker is absolutely perfect as Ghost Dog - detached, subtle, nuanced, and, most importantly, human.

Still, I hesitate to recommend this film. Jim Jarmusch is most definitely an acquired taste, but even his fans may find their patience tried during Ghost Dog.


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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

France | Germany | USA | Japan

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

24 March 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai See more »

Filming Locations:

Jersey City, New Jersey, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$166,344, 5 March 2000

Gross USA:

$3,308,029

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$9,380,473
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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