Ty Burr
March 10, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
116 minutes
performer
Forest Whitaker, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, John Tormey
director
Jim Jarmusch
Producers
JVC Entertainment, Plywood Productions
distributor
Artisan Entertainment
author
Jim Jarmusch
genre
Drama, Mystery and Thriller

We gave it an B+

”Every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead.” Thus reads a passage in the 18th-century Japanese text that the hulking hitman Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) totes everywhere. While this mantra puts him in synch with previous Jim Jarmusch heroes, it’s a pleasure to report that Ghost Dog brings the minimalist director who found fame with 1984’s Stranger Than Paradise back to the land of the living.

Acting as a lone warrior for the Jersey hood who once saved his life, Ghost Dog finds himself cutting a bloody Zen swath up the chain of command to the godfather himself. Jarmusch, meanwhile, honors such cinematic forebears as Sergio Leone Westerns and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai even as he smears a brooding rap soundtrack (from Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA) all over Tony Soprano’s turf. The result has the dingy grace of pigeons flying across an urban wasteland.

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