Jim Jarmusch‘s urban fable follows the mysterious Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker), an assassin who follows the ancient code of the Samurai as outlined by the book of Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s recorded sayings, Hagakure. Ghost Dog wanders an unnamed American city (that looks a lot like New Jersey) in the service of Louie (John Tormey), a local mobster who saved the samurai’s life years ago (though, in an ode to Rashomon, each man has a different recollection as to how that incident actually played out); his latest assignment, in which he kills the gangster who’s been sleeping with the boss’ daughter, puts him at odds with his master’s associates, sparking an all-out war between the one-man samurai army and the Italian Mafia. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is an “East Meets West” hipster experiment that actually works rather beautifully, with Whitaker completely convincing in the title role as he traverses Jarmusch’s strange and groovy world in which seemingly random cartoons (including Betty Boop and Woody Woodpecker) serve as both thematic metaphors and narrative omens. The terrific hip hop soundtrack (go for the Japanese edition rather than the American if you can) comes courtesy of RZA, who also makes his acting debut as one of Ghost Dog’s colleagues.
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