Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

January 28, 2012 9 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a simple man, but in his neighborhood he is loved and respected, even though he has no real friends in this life. He lives alone and spends his time training in the ways of the samurai, which he places his utmost faith in. He wields his sword with grace and skill, much like he handles his other weapons, his guns. You see, Ghost Dog is a professional hitman and he receives his orders via carrier pigeon, from his boss whom he has a history with. When he was just a young man, his boss saved his life and as the samurai codes states, Ghost Dog became his servant for life. So his boss sends the details, then Ghost Dog carries out the hit in quick, lethal fashion. But his boss has no idea about this samurai code of living, and he thinks Ghost Dog is just a remorseless killer, like he is. This leads to some serious issues down the road, because there simply isn’t a line of communication between the two most of the time. Soon, his boss’ daughter sees him pull off a kill and now Ghost Dog is under fire from his previous employers. Can he manage to survive this attack and still remain true to the code he is bound by?

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai is a very cool movie overall, but I think to some it will be a let down in the end. If you’re a fan of Jim Jarmusch movies and you can handle some slow spots, then you’ll be fine, but if you have a short attention span and more mainstream tastes, this might not be your cup of tea. The pace is slow at times, but since this time is used to develop the characters and storyline, I don’t think it is a flaw in the least. That’s the main complaint I hear from people about this movie, so if you need non stop action and motion, then skip this one by all means. I suppose in the end this film could use some trimming, but I’d rather see what Jarmusch wanted and not change his vision. So if the movie runs a little long, so be it, so long as that is how the director wants it to be. When the action heats up though, the movie is on fire and is a real blast to watch. There is some gunplay and violence though, so if you don’t let the little ones watch that kind of stuff, send them to their rooms during this one. In the end, Ghost Dog turns out to be another excellent effort from Jarmusch and a film that defies analyzing on all fronts. Artisan has issued a nice disc for this flick, so go forth and check this out if you’re at all interested.

This film was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who is known for making unusual and usually slow movies, with Ghost Dog falling right into place with his other works. You need a certain taste to appreciate his movie, but if you like them then chances are you’ll love them. Such is the case with Ghost Dog, as some of my friends hated it because of the slowness, but others loved the visuals and rich characters involved. Jarmusch uses his typical slow, deliberate pace in this movie, but since he loads up on visual sparks and such, I was never bored or antsy for the film to kick in again. I’m not sure this is his best movie so far, but I do think it is one of his better pictures and my personal favorite, tied with Stranger Than Paradise. Some have criticized him for using style over substance, but that argument holds on water in this film to be sure. If you want to see more of Jarmusch’s films I recommend Stranger Than Paradise, Down By Law, Dead Man, and Mystery Train. In terms of the cast, this film belongs to Forest Whitaker (Fast Times At Ridgemont High, The Crying Game) as he lights up the screen with his perfect rendition of this character. I think his work here should garnered some awards, but I doubt he will get the recognition he deserves. The rest of the cast is also good and includes Cliff Gorman (All That Jazz, Hoffa), John Tormey (The Real Blonde, Joe Gould’s Secret), Henry Silva (Dick Tracy, Above The Law), and Isaach De Bankole (A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries).

Video: How does it look?

Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a reference quality transfer on all fronts, which is even more impressive than usual since this is a lower budget picture. You expect grain and marks from a lower profile title like this one, but this transfer is clean and pristine in all ways. In addition to the clear source print used, I also found no signs of compression errors, which is of course a terrific turn. The colors are natural in scope and never smear at all, while flesh tones emerge in natural and consistent shades. This is a darker film visually, but no contrast issues surface in the least. Artisan has issued a spectacular transfer for this lower profile film, let’s hope they can continue this level of excellence in the future.

Audio: How does it sound?

This disc sports an impressive Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, driven by a powerful hip hop soundtrack by The RZA. The music meshes well with the events and characters, while making use of all the surrounds you can plug in, especially the subwoofer. But the music never overshadows the other elements, as vocals and sound effects emerge in fine form also. The sound effects don’t pulse through the surrounds that much, but they sound distinct and clean, which works well for the movie. The dialogue is excellent and I found no problems in the least with it, as volume and clarity were terrific at all times.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I would have loved an audio commentary from Jarmusch on this one, but no such luck. Even so, this disc has some terrific bonus features that should please fans of the flick. If you like the soundtrack then you’re in luck, as this disc houses a music video and even an isolated musical track. Now you can just chill and listen the music, if that’s what you’d like to do. A selection of deleted scenes is also on this disc and while most are simply alternate takes, I’m glad they’ve been packed on nonetheless. The main meat of the supplements is a thirty minute interview featurette, which has Jarmusch, The RZA, and Whitaker. This is an informative piece to be sure, but I would have loved more behind the scenes footage, instead of this interview format. The usual theatrical trailers, television spots, and extensive talent files round out this disc.

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