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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

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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
1 win & 7 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 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 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:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official webpage in Poland

Country:

France | Germany | USA | Japan

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

24 March 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Ghost Dog See more »

Filming Locations:

Jersey City, New Jersey, USA See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend:

FRF 5,895,446 (France), 14 October 1999, Limited Release

Opening Weekend USA:

$166,344, 5 March 2000, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,308,029

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$6,072,444
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Raymond speaks French in the English-language version and Yoruba in the French-language version. See more »

Goofs

When Louie is saving Ghost Dog from the thugs beating him up, he shoots the pistol that he has, but the slide does not move to eject the spent cartridge when he fires the gun. 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 ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Not the Executive Producer Bart Walker See more »

Connections

Features A Hunting We Will Go (1932) See more »

Soundtracks

Raise Your Sword
(Samurai Showdown)
Written, produced, mixed and arranged by RZA
Featuring RZA
Engineered by Dr. No. Studio 36 Chambers
See more »

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User Reviews

 
a fascinating, strange hybrid of black, Japanese and Italian culture, with a perfectly detached, somber lead in Forrester
9 July 2004 | by MisterWhiplashSee all my reviews

Jim Jarmusch is one of the few filmmakers in Hollywood able to make bodies of work that are challenging, thoughtful, and with a distinctive voice. Like the Coen Brothers, it's hard to make his films accessible to the public like many other films at the cineplexes, and that's part of the joy in watching a film such as Ghost Dog. It's such a strange kind of story, but it's a story that extremely well crafted, even when some of the characters aren't developed enough past a certain point. While I can't really say that it's a great film, there are plenty of great things about it.

Such as a pulsing, rhythmically engaging soundtrack (I'm not a big fan of rap and hip-hop, but the artists on here are better than expected) with the RZA behind the seat. Delicate, finite cinematography by Robby Mueller (who's other superb collaboration with Jarmusch was on Down By Law). A performance from Forrest Whitaker, as the dedicated, un-hinged-from reality 'samurai' known as Ghost Dog, which ranks among his best and shows in plain sight that he can carry an action film with patience and cool. And the film also carries a fine sense of humor to many scenes - the fact that these gangsters (one of which Dog's boss) watch more cartoons than take care of business is as funny as the way they interact sometimes. While it tends to streak on parody, in the characters there's still the fascinating Jarmusch has in mixing the cultures.

It's a hard film to classify, for even though it's a martial-arts movie, the only sight of a sword is used for practice and not a blood-bath in Kill Bill. It's a gangster movie, but every five minutes or so there's philosophical notes on the way of the samurai that seems more in place in a (good, thematically engaging) art film than a (good, shoot-em-up) Hollywood actioner. It's a movie about urban-life, yet the only signs of Urbana are shown from a distance, where the only two who will talk to Ghost Dog are a Haitian ice cream guy (who provides a wonderfully weird scene on the roof with Ghost Dog), and a little girl who likes to read. But it's this mixture that can keep a viewer on his or her toes, especially once you realize the psychological state of the lead as much as his spiritual state.

Parts of the film might turn off one group, but the other parts of the film might keep the same group enthralled. In fact, it's as interesting a comparison to be made to Kill Bill (itself a hybrid) as it is in the spiritual and stylistic parent, Le Samourai by Melville. Like those films, at the least, Jarmusch's film asks to be looked at more than once...Anyway, three cheers for Garry "Nobody" Farmer!


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