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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.31%
Average: 4.31%
Pretty Bad: 0.86%
Total Crap: 9.48%

8 reviews, 68 user ratings

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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
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by Filmnet

"The way of the Samurai is one of immediacy."
4 stars

Apart from having read the brief synopsis, I walked into this film not really knowing what to expect . Neither had I seen any of Jarmusch's other quite prominent films - "Down by Law", "Mystery Train", "Night on Earth" and "Dead Man". And yet I left feeling I had witnessed a film which had found a rare blend between action, comedy, drama and the provocation of some deep philosophical stirrings about life and how to live it nobly.

Through the great camera work of Robbie Muller, we are introduced to a bleak urban landscape that could be anywhere (but which turns out to be New York), and the even bleaker folk who inhabit it. Making his was through this is Ghost Dog (Whitaker), a modern Samurai, living by the ancient ways in a world that has forgotten such. Working as a 'casual' hitman for Louie (Tormey), he suddenly finds himself at the other end of twisted mafia logic and honour when he rubs out one of the small town mafiosa (at the request of other members of 'la famiglia') and thus must be similarly rubbed out. As they systematically attempt to destroy his code of life, he reacts strictly in accordance with Hagakure, or "The Way of the Samurai".

Whitaker is a strong presence in the film as the dark knight and street wise hitman and yet somehow ancient avenger. The dexterity with which he performs various samurai action and technique is excellent and it is refreshing to have a 'non-action hero' actor playing this role as he also brings depth and humanity to the character. Gorman and Tormey are both convincing as the 'old school' mafiosa who are clinging to the vestiges of what they perceive their own code to be, in an environment where their kind are on the verge of extinction. De Bankole as the french speaking illegal immigrant (and Ghost Dog's best friend), Raymond, is fun and the youngest of the cast, Camille Winbush also does well in the role of Pearline, the potential 'young apprentice' for Ghost Dog.

Jarmusch has done a smooth job with the writing. His use of two other languages (and the accompanying subtitles) is an interesting device to highlight the nature of communication across worlds, the chunks of text taken from "The Way of the Samurai" and reference to cartoons such as 'Felix the Cat' and 'Betty Boop' act as nice sign posts for the forthcoming sequences of action, and the humour that ocassionaly bubbles up in certain scenes offsets the easy violence that permeates others.

Probably the only real hole in the movie is the lack of explanation as to how Ghost Dog became the modern urban samurai that he is...although maybe it is better left as a mystery?

All in all, a film that most should find interesting, amusing, and with a nice twist of samurai philosophy by which to live life. (Paul

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 05/19/00 22:51:55
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User Comments

4/15/17 Volvo245ls A movie with a brain, a heart set in the world of today. Forrest Whittaker is perfect 5 stars
9/14/13 swlabr5 Ghost Dog's electronics and plumbing skills are unmatched in the annals of cinema. 4 stars
7/06/12 Mr. G One of the worst movies ever made! Stupid and boring. Flipping the gun like a katana? OMG 1 stars
12/17/09 the dork knight if you're gonna make another mob drama, you may as well make it unique 5 stars
11/19/09 sunandmoon "artsy" film for men. the perfect mix ofcontrasting characters make it thought provoking 5 stars
5/30/08 Reza Tayebi The story could be a lot better but overall good. 3 stars
11/29/07 Mike Hunt i was deceived by the video cover art, forrest in a c-grade actioner? 5 stars
5/11/07 DJR A lot of subtle humor if you look for it 5 stars
4/16/07 no one this movie captures the essence of integrity in hopelessness 5 stars
2/05/07 Susan I agree with every word of the review 5 stars
11/22/06 Matthew Nicol Luckily it was saved by the awesome action sequences. 3 stars
6/15/06 Reklc Modern day samurai, and he's black?!!! Now that's an idea! 5 stars
3/19/06 Daniel Maloney It stunk, possibly the worst movie i have ever seen. Easily comparable to being in hell! 1 stars
4/12/05 Ronin Unique style. Very very good movie 4 stars
10/03/04 Daveman There's an indie sincerity that belies its dumb, sophomoric pretensions, not too bad. 3 stars
8/10/04 Jeff Not Forrest Whitakers best, and flipping the gun around like a damned sword was too much 3 stars
7/09/04 The FRIESOR A totally original masterpiece, molded together by layers of mysticism 5 stars
2/22/04 john I found it rather shallow and pretentious and very boring 1 stars
9/27/03 Thomas John Absolutely Badass, gr8 flick 5 stars
8/13/03 Yousif Foolad Believable, sympathetic and, yes, cool. 5 stars
7/18/03 Vartanoosh Kiourktzian This movie is unlike any I've ever seen(maybe a remake of Le Samourai). Brilliant! 5 stars
6/20/03 Jack Bourbon Ghost Dog isn't really about a guy trying to be some "cool" samurai. 4 stars
3/13/03 Artist Freak This movie RULES. Great visual style, multi-layered storytelling, moody, funny, subtle. 5 stars
3/08/03 Jack Sommersby Pretentious crap. Jarmusch is search of a worthy subject. 2 stars
10/26/02 Morally Sound Brilliant dialog and brilliant direction! A kick ass mafia movie! 5 stars
10/04/02 James Understated and Quiet, Striking 5 stars
5/15/02 erick beautifully made movie. sometimes hilarious, sometimes depressing. see it 5 stars
4/02/02 Bill a genius film that will surely stand the test of time 5 stars
4/01/02 Joe Schulz I will be killing myself shortly 1 stars
3/27/02 George Unbelievably original, very cool, awesome concept - great execution and good acting! 5 stars
1/25/02 Andrew Carden A Total Waste Of Good Talent and Direction. 1 stars
10/19/01 Danzi One of the best .... just go and see it - NOW !! 5 stars
10/04/01 groodude take a chance. Watch this movie and expand your mind 5 stars
9/03/01 Butterbean I was expecting Forest to look stupid, like Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja. I was impressed 4 stars
7/20/01 MiS^DeMeAnOr beware the pigeon ninja 1 stars
7/15/01 Steven Webster This movie changed me, the fascinating plot & Whitaker's amazing performance astounded me. 5 stars
7/03/01 The Stuff Finally a black intellectual who's no a side kick. Al la Brother From Another Planet! 5 stars
6/14/01 Final Trunks Provokes many deep thoughts, an exceptionally fascinating 'stream of consciousness' film. 4 stars
6/13/01 canuck Wow, Whitaker plays an obviously deranged and possibly psychopathic guy with fragility. 5 stars
4/07/01 Nero Henrickson Best Jarmusch film I've seen. 5 stars
2/21/01 Michael Grimm It's a shame this movie too intelligent for most of America, shame on you!!! 5 stars
2/20/01 Rob Quimby Note the relation between dog and god. No coincidence. 5 stars
2/20/01 Mark Quinn Deep 5 stars
1/21/01 martin Beltinger coole meinung fritz!! 1 stars
12/23/00 Bev Clark Subtle, clever but incredibly stylised. Forrest Whittaker is brilliant 4 stars
11/24/00 jb Just excellent but a bit too much intelligent for the middle America man 5 stars
11/21/00 Ed Fucking Awesome sums it up nicely 5 stars
11/14/00 Andrew I. Complete waste of $3.50 and 2 hours. NOT intelligent. NOT unique. Just garbage 1 stars
9/17/00 The Bomb 69 glad to see something different come out of hollywood for a change 5 stars
9/17/00 Lux Interior Jarmusch on the Wu Tang tip-- complex, hardcore, and satisfying 4 stars
8/28/00 Add Very nice, slow but well paced and involving. An enlighted movie that alot could learn from 4 stars
6/26/00 stranded on the Island If you're in the mood for something different, you won't find much better than this! 5 stars
6/16/00 JonnyA worth watching fo' sho' 4 stars
5/27/00 Fritz Beltinger This movie sucks 1 stars
5/14/00 gwalla See this movie. Many many times. 5 stars
4/24/00 Nadine Eugene What where they thing when thry pushed this out 1 stars
4/10/00 syd great character, lame storyline 3 stars
4/09/00 Klute Takes brains to figure out what this one is trying to say. But it's well worth it. 5 stars
4/07/00 GDB pffft 1 stars
4/03/00 PJ You thought Stranger Than Paradise was brilliant, see this movie, poignant. 5 stars
3/31/00 Heather See this movie or die! 5 stars
3/28/00 Power and Equality Holy Crap! The Slow pace actually led it's way to an ass kicking movie. 5 stars
3/25/00 Dr. Rev. Krule, MD It has been so long since i've seen a movie of this Calliber 5 stars
3/24/00 malcolm kurosawa meets tarantino. entertaining on many levels. 4 stars
3/19/00 camk Saw it in France, can't wait to see it here when the theater execs pull their heads out 5 stars
3/11/00 Mr Glute Just awesome. It won't make lots of money, but it makes you think. 5 stars
3/07/00 SomeGuy Great characters, great story. See it! 5 stars
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