Dog: Way of the Samurai (SE)B+,B+/
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.
Dog adheres tot he spirit of the samurai. ©Artisan
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.
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
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.
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
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