Forest Whitaker makes an unlikely modern samurai with his laser-sighted pistols, shabby street clothes, and oddly graceful gait--but then Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is an unusual film. Quirky, contemplative and at times absurd, it is just the kind of offbeat vision we have come to expect from the fiercely independent Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise, Dead Man). Whitaker is Ghost Dog, a mysterious New York hit man who lives simply on a tenement rooftop and follows a code of behaviour outlined in : Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (passages of this book are... interspersed throughout the film). When the local mob marks him for death in a complicated code of Mafiosi-style honour, Ghost Dog sends a cryptic message to his foes. "That's poetry. The poetry of war", remarks mobster Henry Silva, with sudden respect upon reading the verse. He could be describing the ethereal beauty of Jarmusch's vision, full of wonderful imagery (a night drive across town seems to float in time) and off-centre humour. Though it briefly stalls in a series of assassinations (Jarmusch is no action director), it settles back into character-driven drama in a quietly epic showdown, equal parts samurai adventure, spaghetti western and existential crime movie. The film is likely too unconventional and offbeat for general audiences, but cult-movie buffs and Jarmusch fans will appreciate his idiosyncratic vision. He finds a strange sense of honour in the clash of Old World traditions, and salutes his heroes with a skewed but sincere respect. --Sean Axmaker [show more]
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