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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 Chris Parry

"One word sums this film up completely - that word is 'art'."
5 stars

Going to see a film you know absolutely nothing about is just the best thing. The expectation is zero, the spoilers non-existant, and everything is a surprise from start to finish. You lucky folks who saw Blair Witch early know what I'm talking about. Factor in the unpredictability of a Jim Jarmusch project into the equation and, baby, it's head-trip time. Make no mistake, when Ghost Dog finished I was convinced of two things. The first was that it will bomb big time at the US box office. The second is that said bombing will be one of the biggest travesties of justice that cinema has experienced in decades. This film has so many levels, it almost feels silly to review it. What this movie needs is a thesis.

So Forest Whittaker is a modern day samurai. Yes, Forest Whittaker the fat guy with a wonky eye. Yes, I know, not exactly samurai material, but that's the point. Nobody in this film is the "Hollywood stereotype". Jarmusch traditionally steers clear of the big name folks, instead relying on people who realistically fit the mold. Ghost dog is filled with oddball characters who, despite being almost cartoon-like in their weirdness (Jarmusch highlights this by having them continually watching cartoons on TV), still seem to be more real than anything Hollywood puts out.

Ghost Dog works for a local mafioso type. pulling hits ninja-style and communicating through carrier pigeons to ensure anonymity, but finds himself double-crossed by the one he considers his master... But that's not the real story.

So what's the real story? Not telling. Go to hell. You go see the thing and you'll come back thanking me for allowing you to see this film with no expectations or spoilers. It's not about the kill, people, it's "thrill of the chase" time.

Suffice it to say that you have no idea what this film is trying to achieve, where it's going, or even how it's getting there, until the thing is nearly done - then it all starts to make sense. Much like John Sayles' classic Limbo, famed for having an ending without an ending, this is a film that ends about halfway through, but you don't know it until later. The point it makes is well made, but hidden under many layers. Yep, you've gotta think about it, folks, so I guess most of you won't be going. You're such punks.

No, Ghost Dog is not an action movie, though there's some gunshooting here and there. No, it's not a comedy, though there's some very, very funny moments that come from right out of left field and leave you scratching your head. It sure as hell ain't a love story (like Forest is ever going to be in danger of getting one of those babies) and it's no drama, though it has one of the most tear-inducing third acts you'll see.

The music is awesome. No, not good, not great, awesome. This is a full-on "run out and buy me" soundtrack. Jarmusch generally likes to play with music, but he's never strayed so heavily into heavy bass pumping stuff as this. Robby Muller's cinematography is as striking as ever - as you'd expect from a guy who has made his mark by running the camera for Jarmusch and the legendary Wim Wenders.

Okay, I'll put the testicles on the block, I loved this frickin' movie like crazy. It hit me hard and left me dazed. It was the kind of experience that makes you realise the power of cinema. Full of full circles, ancient philosophy, surreal humour and poignant observations on society then and now, it will take a non-lateral thinking mind working furiously to get the most out of Ghost Dog.

It's about honour. It's about lack of no honour. It's about how everything has changed. It's about how everything is the same. It's about friendship and it's about relying on yourself. Nope, this film is not perfect, but folks, the words I give you here can't express the utter fascination, satisfaction, enjoyment and respect I felt for this movie. Whatever you might think of the trailer and no matter what bile you might read from people who either missed the point or simply have it in for Jarmusch, take my advice and gamble some green on this film. Even if it doesn't hit you in the face like it hit me, at least it's different.

Truly unique, truly funny, truly something to think about. Please consider.

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originally posted: 03/02/00 02:08:45
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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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