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Worth A Look: 29.31%
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8 reviews, 68 user ratings

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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
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by Slyder

"A well constructed, groundbreaking film"
5 stars

Watching Ghost Dog can leave you with mixed feelings everywhere. Itís difficult to qualify this film as a low-level action thriller or a fast paced drama or even a comedy, since due to the many levels or genres that this movie works with. Despite that, it still has the ability to impress because of the filmís evocative message, unique storytelling and its in-depth symbolism, that is groundbreaking in every level. It certainly impressed me, since Iíve never seen film like it, and also left me with some weird feeling thatís almost impossible to describe.

Ghost Dog is the story ofÖGhost Dog (Forest Whitaker), a lonely serial killer who lives in a rooftop with his messenger pigeons and following the Hagakure code, or the Way of the Samurai, which teaches a person everything about honor and discipline. He gets hired for a job through his ďmasterĒ Louie (John Tormey), a mob guy who saved him when he was a kid, but that job for some reason -not Dogís fault- doesnít please the other head mob guys, since Louise (Tricia Vessey), the daughter of one of the mob guyís was present, and makes our hunter the hunted, despite the fact that the mob guys donít know shit about this guy. So now he must take measures to evade his killers and fight back, but always sticking by his code, which means he canít harm his master, or any servant. Along the way we meet his best friend Raymond, The Ice Cream Man (Isaak De Bankole), and a little girl called Pearline (Camille Winbush), both who would play a crucial part in the film.

All along the film you can appreciate the many symbolic details that Jarmusch implants in the entire film, giving it more depth, and more meaning. The film uses a basic rule of what a motion picture or movie is: A story in pictures. The storyline is the backbone of the film; it gives the film its course. But thatís the only thing it does. The rest of the film relies on symbolism. And the symbolism gives you questions you have to answer. Hence this gives this ordinary story itís depth and meaningfulness.

So, Ghost Dog follows this code because he feels that he owes Louie his life, a servant is always loyal to his retainer, thatís what the Hagakure teaches. Ghost Dog thinks of himself as a samurai, he has a retainer and does everything that the retainer tells them. One would normally say that this is ridiculous, that guy has gone wacko, heís following a pointless life, a life that was practiced a thousand years ago, and now is obsolete. Well, is it? If his life were that pointless will he be still doing this? How Ďbout the guy building his boat on the roof? That boat will never sail, itís pointless, or is it? What about the rappers? In all these sequences the film gives out the point that everyone has his own pointless acts in life, including us, why is it that people wonder why others do ďsupposedlyď pointless things when we have to look at ourselves and figure out why is it that we do what we do? We do these things for a reason, a reason that we only know within ourselves, and itís that reason that gives us something worthy of getting up in the morning and do what we do.

The mob guys, we know nothing about them except that theyíre old, and donít do anything, just give the order to kill Ghost Dog and thatís it. But interestingly, thereís always a cartoon show they watch. What are cartoons? Just comics about some dude pursuing some dude for no reason over and over. And according to the film, the life of the mob guys is in some sort of decay, they're supposed to be were the rulers of the city, but not anymore, the times have changed, and they havenít changed their ways. Theyíre still living the old ways, and havenít evolved, hence their lives are cartoons, since they do nothing, and arenít respected anymore, and the cartoons they watch reflect their actual lives. Same thing with Ghost Dog, he lives the past, and tries to make the past work in the present, hence another cartoon.

The film gives also an interesting relationship between Ghost Dog and his best friend, Raymond. They donít know what each other say, since they speak different languages but they understand each other, since they both live similar lonely lives, but itís through Raymond that we are revealed Ghost Dogís character, through the description of the Bearís way of life. Pearline, is basically Ghost Dogís pupil, eventually, since he welcomes her to read the Hagakure, which eventually will teach her his ways, voluntarily of course. All in all, itís a samurai story, translated and adapted to modern life, and the subsequent out comings are weird to us, but in someway makes sense since it reflects the life of ancient warlords and their servants, and how they ruled over in the world, and after times passed, these people become less important and arenít respected as fearlessly as before, hence the evolution of times, and their refusal to let go of the ancient ways, prompts their decadence and fall.

Whatís most captivating about Jarmuschís work here is that all this symbols and metaphors he carefully lays all over the film makes the it work along the story smoothly and perfectly. It borrows from many genres, it could be funny it could be mysterious, thereís some shooting, but thereís no way to describe the film, yet it works, because Jarmusch avoids the everyday formulaic clichťs that screw many films and breaks new ground by borrowing from many genres in filmmaking and adapting them to his story, and the final product is like nothing weíve seen before, and in the end, the only words that fit this result is that itís simply, a work of art. The filmís use of the basic rule in motion pictures, plus the depth and significance of it, gives proof to that. Basically, itís a well-constructed film, which we take a good look at the process of the art of filmmaking. The cast of the film is great and all fill the roles perfectly, and no character is without a meaning.

In the end, this film is an innovative piece of work. Iíve never seen a director like Jim Jarmusch make a film that works in many levels and pull off all of them like this one. Itís an amazing film, that only gets better and better every time you see it again. This film was truly a work of art, and is recommended for everyone, especially film students, since this film is a primal example of how and why filmmaking is an art.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2140&reviewer=235
originally posted: 07/15/01 22:55:35
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User Comments

4/14/17 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
12/16/09 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
5/29/08 Reza Tayebi The story could be a lot better but overall good. 3 stars
11/28/07 Mike Hunt i was deceived by the video cover art, forrest in a c-grade actioner? 5 stars
5/10/07 DJR A lot of subtle humor if you look for it 5 stars
4/15/07 no one this movie captures the essence of integrity in hopelessness 5 stars
2/04/07 Susan I agree with every word of the review 5 stars
11/21/06 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
8/09/04 Jeff Not Forrest Whitakers best, and flipping the gun around like a damned sword was too much 3 stars
7/08/04 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
7/17/03 Vartanoosh Kiourktzian This movie is unlike any I've ever seen(maybe a remake of Le Samourai). Brilliant! 5 stars
6/19/03 Jack Bourbon Ghost Dog isn't really about a guy trying to be some "cool" samurai. 4 stars
3/12/03 Artist Freak This movie RULES. Great visual style, multi-layered storytelling, moody, funny, subtle. 5 stars
3/07/03 Jack Sommersby Pretentious crap. Jarmusch is search of a worthy subject. 2 stars
10/25/02 Morally Sound Brilliant dialog and brilliant direction! A kick ass mafia movie! 5 stars
10/04/02 James Understated and Quiet, Striking 5 stars
5/14/02 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
3/31/02 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
1/24/02 Andrew Carden A Total Waste Of Good Talent and Direction. 1 stars
10/18/01 Danzi One of the best .... just go and see it - NOW !! 5 stars
10/03/01 groodude take a chance. Watch this movie and expand your mind 5 stars
9/02/01 Butterbean I was expecting Forest to look stupid, like Farley in Beverly Hills Ninja. I was impressed 4 stars
7/19/01 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
7/02/01 The Stuff Finally a black intellectual who's no a side kick. Al la Brother From Another Planet! 5 stars
6/13/01 Final Trunks Provokes many deep thoughts, an exceptionally fascinating 'stream of consciousness' film. 4 stars
6/12/01 canuck Wow, Whitaker plays an obviously deranged and possibly psychopathic guy with fragility. 5 stars
4/06/01 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
2/19/01 Rob Quimby Note the relation between dog and god. No coincidence. 5 stars
2/19/01 Mark Quinn Deep 5 stars
1/20/01 martin Beltinger coole meinung fritz!! 1 stars
12/23/00 Bev Clark Subtle, clever but incredibly stylised. Forrest Whittaker is brilliant 4 stars
11/23/00 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
11/13/00 Andrew I. Complete waste of $3.50 and 2 hours. NOT intelligent. NOT unique. Just garbage 1 stars
9/16/00 The Bomb 69 glad to see something different come out of hollywood for a change 5 stars
9/16/00 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
6/15/00 JonnyA worth watching fo' sho' 4 stars
5/27/00 Fritz Beltinger This movie sucks 1 stars
5/13/00 gwalla See this movie. Many many times. 5 stars
4/23/00 Nadine Eugene What where they thing when thry pushed this out 1 stars
4/09/00 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
4/06/00 GDB pffft 1 stars
4/03/00 PJ You thought Stranger Than Paradise was brilliant, see this movie, poignant. 5 stars
3/30/00 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
3/24/00 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
3/18/00 camk Saw it in France, can't wait to see it here when the theater execs pull their heads out 5 stars
3/10/00 Mr Glute Just awesome. It won't make lots of money, but it makes you think. 5 stars
3/06/00 SomeGuy Great characters, great story. See it! 5 stars
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