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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a very weird movie. Which is not to say it's not a very good movie as well, because it's very good indeed. But then, one should expect no less from director Jim Jarmusch, the man who brought us Down by Law, Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Dead Man. Written by Jarmusch for his star, Forest Whitaker, Ghost Dog tells the story of a solitary New York contract killer who lives on a tenement rooftop in Zen-like simplicity with an impressive arsenal of weaponry, a small shrine, and the sort of electronic gizmos that allow one to break into a car at a moment's notice. He adheres to the priciple of the book "Hagekura: The Way of the Samurai," and for eight years has served as the devoted retainer to an aging mafia foot-soldier named Louie (John Tormey), communicating with him only by carrier pigeon. But after a long string of perfect hits, one of his contracts goes very wrong — Ghost Dog kills a made man, and the don's daughter is a witness. As a matter of mob pride, the don (Henry Silva) orders Ghost Dog killed. In previous films, Jarmusch has looked at America through the eyes of a Hungarian (Stranger Than Paradise), an Italian (Down by Law), and a Japanese couple (Mystery Train). In a unique shift, Ghost Dog looks at American culture through the eyes of an American who is living by the ideals of a different, ancient culture, and Whitaker's assassin is the classic solitary hero, silently heroic and tragically doomed because of his single-minded adherence to his own personal code of ethics — in fact, Whitaker seems to single-handedly strip the usual Jarmusch pretensions from the film, delivering a quiet, poetic performance that is as impressive as it is simple. Artisan's DVD edition of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) with audio in Dolby Digital 5.1, and features include the 30-minute doc "The Odyssey: The Journey into the Life of a Samurai," outtakes, an isolated score, trailers and TV spots, and a music video.
—Dawn Taylor

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