Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

Hypothetical Netflix Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’ll just come right out and say it: Forest Whitaker is the fucking man. Writer/ director Jim Jarmusch wrote the role of Ghost Dog for Forest Whitaker, which at first sounded very strange to me being that I always thought of Forest Whitaker as the dude from the Last King of Scotland and Panic Room. I never thought of him as a hit man with a code akin to a samurai, but he totally pulls it off. He’s fantastic. And deadly.

The film follows Forest Whitaker, who after completing a hit in the first ACT, is put on the mob’s radar as someone who needs to be taken care of. Not in a “awww, he’s sick and needs soup” taken care of. I mean, “let’s put bullets in him” taken care of. Thus begins Forest Whitaker’s path of vengeance.

For such a straight forward plot, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, is unbelievably engaging. The characters introduced are incredibly interesting and rich. Ghost Dog has two friends: a man who only speaks French and runs an ice cream truck, and a little girl who he trades books with. Ghost Dog does not speak French, which actually creates some good moments of levity. Jim Jarmusch did a great job writing this film if only for those moments.

The real take away from this film is the actually code of the samurai that Forest Whitaker dispenses via voice over and text cards. Not only do they fill in all the holes in the character of Ghost Dog, they also act as chapter markers, telling the audience what’s about to happen. It’s a really neat idea that gives one pause, because the teachings of the samurai are cross applicable to every culture even modern day New Jersey or New York or where ever the hell this movie is supposed to take place. They never give you that piece of information. Anywho.

This movie made me want to become a modern day samurai. Ten bucks says you will too after watching it.

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