Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (SE)B+,B+/
Artisan/1999/

         Jim Jarmusch makes films that answer the call of his own vision. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is no exception. It's probably the most accessible of his films. Lean, with a clean story line, the filmmaker chooses a linear style to relate the tale of this unusual hit man.

Ghost Dog adheres tot he spirit of the samurai. Artisan

     An Italian mob under boss uses Ghost Dog, an anonymous assassin, for expeditious and successful hits. Mistaken information leads to a witness to one of the contracts. Ghost Dog decides not to silence the witness, perhaps a weakness in the plot. This witness is not just a girl off the street, but the daughter of the mob family head. With arcane logic directing mob thinking, the hit man must be taken down for the killing. Loyalty plays a big part in the action, but poetry, of motion, of thought, are the most important elements in Jarmusch's screenplay.
     Jarmusch relates story with powerful elegance. The ancient Japanese world tradition of the samurai is compared to the new world Italian mobsters. Both are relics of the past and must find a way to adapt to the present. Though it's an action picture at heart, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai has many very funny moments, especially at the expense of the mob figures. 
     Forest Whitaker is an actor who combines physical power with gentle demeanor. He's perfect for Ghost Dog, a character who adheres to his beliefs with a peaceful knowledge of right and deadly violent certainty. Whitaker's scenes with young Camille Winbush, who plays a charming neighborhood girl with a penchant for reading, are vital in giving depth to his character, and the strange relationship with Haitian ice cream vendor Raymond, played with grand energy by Frenchman
Isaach de Bankole, adds another outstanding layer to the film. 
     The mob characters give a hilarious troop of supporting actors a chance to polish their tough guy  mannerisms and
accents. John Tormey plays Louie, the man to whom Ghost Dog owes his allegiance, with Cliff Gorman making the most of Sonny Valerio and Henry Silva playing boss Vargo with his usual stone face demeanor.
     Jarmusch's look for Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai has an essentially noirish feel, thought the film is in color. The graceful cinematography contrasts nicely with the crisp editing. The visual rhythms are complimented beautifully by Rza's striking score.
     Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is an impressive DVD.  The image is consistently sharp. You can peer into the characters' eyes and get a sense of what they are thinking. Black are lustrous with shadow detail revealing every crease in a sports jacket or a sudden movement in the night. There is some slight edge enhancement noticeable on high peak day transitions. Color is stable, with no bleeding from one to another. The Dolby Digital 5:1 sound is outstanding, delivering Rza's nifty score with tight bass rhythms in tact. Ambient surround information is distinct, even the night breeze makes itself know in the surrounds. Included with on the DVD is a half hour special produced for television featuring interviews with Jarmusch, star Whitaker, and composer Rza. It's a nice bonus on this excellent DVD. to
     

 

 

 

 

 


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