By Ty Burr
Updated March 03, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

”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: The Way of the Samurai 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.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

  • Movie
  • R
  • 116 minutes
  • Jim Jarmusch