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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Widescreen) [Import]


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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Widescreen) [Import] + Dead Man [Import] + Down by Law (Widescreen) (The Criterion Collection)
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Product Details

  • Actors: Forest Whitaker, Henry Silva, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Dennis Liu
  • Directors: Jim Jarmusch
  • Writers: Jim Jarmusch
  • Producers: Jim Jarmusch, Diana Schmidt, Richard Guay
  • Format: NTSC, Import
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: French, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Alliance Films
  • Release Date: April 20 2004
  • Run Time: 116 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005QCVX

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lead Cenobite on April 23 2006
Format: DVD
If you like a blend of graphic violence with black humor (a la Pulp Fiction) then you'll love this movie. Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed this highly unusual and enjoyable film about a man named Ghost Dog (the brilliant Forrest Whitaker) who is a hitman that lives by the code of Bushido. I've heard there's various interpretations of Bushido. Ghost Dog lives by the code as set down in the Hagakure, a book he often reads. The DVD also includes a great documentary about the movie. An audio commentary would've been nice, but the documentary is so informative that a commentary isn't really necessary.
Ghost Dog works as a hitman for Louie, who's in the mafia. The mafia bosses want Louie to have 'Handsome' Frank (a member of their mafia family) killed by someone "from the outside". Louie has Ghost Dog kill Frank. But now, since Frank was part of their family, they need to kill Ghost Dog - their own code of honour demands it, even though they were the ones who arranged the hit. But Mr. Vargo might also have an ulterior motive for wanting Ghost Dog killed. It's clear that Mr. Vargo's daughter suspects her father had Frank killed. But does Mr. Vargo know that or not? Is he being pressured by his daughter to kill Ghost Dog? I can't say for sure.
It's fascinating to see a present-day African-American man abiding by a code of honour that was intended to be followed by warriors in feudal Japan. Jarmusch says he wanted Ghost Dog to be a likeable killer. He's quiet, gentle, and kind - it's impossible not to like him. Ghost Dog is a cold-blooded murderer, but we can overlook this unseemly aspect of his character, in large part due to his various conversations with the little girl named Pearline.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By jmk444 on April 4 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a fascinating flick - an odd hybrid, two parts gangster epic, one part philosophical journey of self-discovery. Forrest Whitaker (Phenomenon, Good Morning Vietnam) is Ghost Dog, a loner, who considers himself a "retainer" (servant/protector) to a mobster named Lou (John Tormey) who once saved his life.
Ghost Dog is a seeker, studying the Hagakure (The Code of the Samurai). Throughout the film, he reads passages from the Hagakure that highlight his own personal code. Passages like, "Each day a samurai should contemplate his own death and consider various ways of dying, from being torn apart in the jaws of a wild beast, to falling from thousand foot cliffs, and during some part of the day, the samurai should consider himself dead."
Ghost Dog's "best friend" is a Haitian ice cream vendor (Isaac DeBankole), despite the fact that Whitaker's character understands no French and the ice cream vendor doesn't understand English. His only other real human contact is with a young girl, maybe 10 years old, named Pearline (Camille Winbush).
Lou contacts Ghost Dog via carrier pigeon and pays him for his contract killings once a year...Lou doesn't know anything else about his contract killer, not his given name, not even where he lives. This becomes the fulcrum for some very dark comedy.
When a hit goes awry and Lou's associates look to eliminate Ghost Dog, Lou's inability to provide details makes for some darkly comedic confrontations. Veteran screen villain Henry Silva is cold and bizarre as mob boss Ray Vargo, while Cliff Gorman (Sonny Valerio) provides a comic absurdity (a mafia hit man who's also a rap aficionado) rivaled only by the communication between Ghost Dog and the ice cream vendor that transcends language.
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Format: DVD
Ghost Dog is like a contemporary Spaghetti Western/Samurai flick set in the suburbs. It has the slow, mellow, easy pacing interrupted by moments of intense violence, the intriguing but elusive characters who follow their own mysterious moral code even to their death if necessary. It is funny, and even hilarious at times; it is political insofar as it plays with and criticizes racial and ethnic stereotyping; it has one of the best soundtracks of any films (done by the RZA of Wu Tang Clan fame); scenes are joined together by intertitles containing intriguing passages from the Hagakure: the Book of the Samurai, read smoothly by the Ghost Dog himself; it raises existential questions of how to live appropriately in the face of death and the collapse of the forms that give meaning to our lives; and, best of all, it stars Forrest Whittaker in the role he was born to play! That alone makes this a dvd worth owning at almost any price; and at this price I can't see how anyone who loves film does not own a copy.

On a personal note: when I took one of my classes (on American Independent Film) to the Sundance film festival a few years ago, someone asked me whether I hoped to see any stars. I hadn't really thought about it because I'm not that starstruck, I just like movies. But then it came to me: the whole trip would be worth it if I could meet Forrest Whittaker. And I did! He's a very big man, just as impressive in life as he is on film. We were at a party for one of the smaller satellite festivals and I talked to him for a while, and finally said: "hey, I really loved what you did in Ghost Dog." He just nodded a few times, and said, "yeah, that was a cool movie." Enough said.
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