The whole sworded story
Forest Whitaker is outstanding as a brooding killer trying to avoid getting whacked by the mob in Jim Jarmusch's typically offbeat "Ghost Dog."
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
He moves through the night with the lumbering bulk of the grizzly bear and
the stealth of the sleek panther. He cruises the urban NYC streets in
stolen luxury cars listening to his favorite gangsta grooves on the
surround sound. He worships at a makeshift altar with incense and
oranges. He sleeps with the pigeons.
When he strikes, his hits are swift, effortless, and final. He is Ghost
Dog and his ways are those of the Samurai.
|Full title: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.|
Written and directed by: Jim Jarmusch.
Cast: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, Isaach De Bankole, Tricia Vessey, Victor Argo, Gene Ruffini, Richard Portnow, Camille Winbush.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
He, Ghost Dog, is played by Forest Whitaker in a lumbering, sleek
performance and he, Whitaker, is directed by Jim Jarmusch, the decidedly
inventive filmmaker of such oddball classics as "Stranger than Paradise"
and "Night on Earth."
Whether or not you're a Jarmusch fan, it's hard to deny that his
films quintessential indie successes all have all paid strong attention
to casting. Think John Lurie's laconic, deadpan turn in the melancholic
"Stranger than Paradise," or Screamin' Jay Hawkins as the larger-than-life
concierge of "Mystery Train," or Johnny Depp in "Dead Man." And let's not
forget Roberto Benigni's star-making role in "Down by Law."
So, too, with Whitaker in "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai." He's a
Ghost Dog is a professional killer who lives the life of an 18th-century
Samurai. His bible is the "Hagakure," a little ivory book which contains
the ancient rites and rituals of the Japanese warrior and from which
Whitaker narrates, in voiceover, accompanying the film's periodic
title-boards. Ghost Dog is devoutly loyal to his Lord and Master, a
small-time mobster called Louie (John Tormey), who once saved his life.
Unfortunately, Ghost Dog's latest contract now has its "complications" and
the bosses who ordered the hit want Ghost Dog whacked.|
With his hooded fleece pulled up high above his head like a monk's habit,
Ghost Dog moves from hit to hit with a briefcase full of guns and gadgets
and a brooding look on his benevolent face. Although his reputation is
that he speaks to no one and has no friends, Ghost Dog shares some
literary advice with a young girl he meets in the park, and "converses"
with his best friend, a French-speaking Caribbean ice-cream vendor who
understands no English. (Odd. Jarmusch himself appeared as an ice-cream
vendor in Billy Bob Thornton's accomplished "Sling Blade."
But anyway . . .)
This is a thoughtful, compelling performance from Whitaker would that
they gave awards for this kind of film.
In truth, Jarmusch's latest outing doesn't have much more than a
"mysterious contract killer hounded by disloyal crime syndicate" plotline
at its center but, as in all of his films, the writer/director embellishes
a simple storyline with richly drawn characters, evocative music (here
provided by hip-hop artist THE RZA), lush photography (Ghost Dog is shot
from end-to-end by veteran cinematographer Robby Muller), and a wicked
sense of humor. There's a scene in which Louie tries to explain to a trio
of crime lords (Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, and Victor Argo, fantastic
faces all) just how little he knows about Ghost Dog that is truly
From its evocative, pigeon's-eye-view opener to its closing high-noon
showdown, "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" is another offbeat gem from
the offbeat, irreverent genius of Jim Jarmusch. And it's the latest in a
long string of excellent performances from Forest Whitaker.
|MARCH 22, 2000|
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Reader comments on Ghost Dog:
GREAT from J Conrad, Sep 10, 2000
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