Starring: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Henry Silva and Isaach de Bankolé
Rated: R Action, Crime, Drama
In this film, an African-American man who goes by the moniker of “Ghost Dog” (Forest Whitaker), works as an assassin for Louie (John Tormey). Louis, an Italian member of the local branch of the Mafia, saved Ghost Dog when he was younger.
Ghost Dog lives according to the rigid principles he studies in the Hagakure Kikigaki, a guide for a samurai. The content of this book was gleaned from the wisdom of Yamamoto Tsunetomo, an attendant to Nabeshima Mitsushige, a ruler in Japan during the early 1700s. His life of isolation leads him to have little contact with others, excluding a young girl, Pearline (Camille Winbush), and best friend, Raymond (Isaach de Bankolé), an operator of an ice cream truck who speaks only French. The only way that Louis can even contact him is through a carrier pigeon.
One day, Ghost Dog receives a message that he is to kill a made man, Handsome Frank (Richard Portnow). He is in a romantic relationship with Louise (Tricia Vessey), the daughter of mob boss, Ray Vargo (Henry Silva). Ray disapproves and wants Handsome Frank dead. Things go awry with the hit and Vargo, in attempting to cover his command for the murder, quickly acts to have Ghost Dog silenced … permanently.
Will Ghost Dog be able to outwit Vargo and his men? What role, if any, will loyalty play out between Louie and Ghost Dog? Viewers must catch this film to learn if the “way of the samurai” still applies in contemporary, urban America!
Influenced by themes in the 1967 films, the French Le Samourai and Japanese Branded to Kill, the independent film, Ghost Dog, was praised for its unique storyline. It appealed to both movie viewers and critics, including Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times and J. Hoberman of The Village Voice.
Its appeal led to it being nominated for nine awards. Screenwriter and director Jim Jarmusch won the “Audience Award” at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 1999. The other nominations include the Palme d’Or to Jarmusch at the Cannes Film Festival (1999); the César Award to Jarmusch for “Best Foreign Film” in 2000; and the Independent Spirit Award to Jarmusch and Richard Guay for “Best Feature”.
The Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai soundtrack was also well-received. It and the score marked the debut production of legendary hip-hop artist RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. An American and a Japanese version of this soundtrack was released and on each were different songs. While on the Japanese version, there are songs included that were not in the film, strangely, there were several songs in the film that aren’t on either soundtrack version. These songs include “From Then Till Now” by Killah Priest and, most notably, “Cold Lampin’ with Flavor” by Public Enemy, which was prominently featured in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.