Cassie's Movie Reviews
  past features
  cool links


Categories this film falls into:

Just a Damn Fine Film

ghost dog: the way of the samurai (1999)

Ghost Dog is a hitman who follows the way of the samurai.

Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch

Robby Muller

Forest Whitaker
John Tormey
Henry Silva
Cliff Gorman
Isaach De Bankole
Camille Winbush
Tricia Vessey
Gary Farmer



I have not so thoroughly enjoyed a film in such a very long time. This is truly a gem. Jim Jarmusch is a genius - he's one of the few people who continues to impress me as time rolls on.

The concept is wonderful: a hitman who follows the code of the samurai. But this film is so much more than that. When trying to describe this film to a friend, I realized that I couldn't really sum it up with one plot line. There are several different relationships which develop during the course of the movie (with Raymond, with Pearline, with Louie, with Louise, with the Way), and each one adds more depth to both the movie and to the character of Ghost Dog. Each time I watch it I am reminded of why I love Jim Jarmusch films so much. Bravo Jim.


Ghost Dog reading The Way of the SamuraiForest Whitaker. I can't think of a more perfect Ghost Dog.
The music. There are some films in which the music is as much a part of the film as the actors, the stage and the lighting - this is one of those films. RZA even makes an appearance in the film as the samurai in camouflage.
The passages from Hagakure's The Way of the Samurai. I love that the passage is superimposed over the scene and that Forest Whitaker reads it aloud. Fabulous.
The way that Ghost Dog walks. It's a fabulous walk full of power, confidence, and a bit of humility.
The fact that all the gangsters are old. Sort of like a dying breed, if you will. It's a theme that runs through the movie.
The pigeons.
Raymond, Ghost Dog's best friendGhost Dog and Raymond. This has to be one of the best friendships ever put on film. It's perfect for Ghost Dog to have a best friend that speaks a completely different language. I thought as the movie moved along that I would tire of this subplot, but I didn't. I laughed as hard the last time as I did the first - the way one of them will say something and then the other will say the exact same thing in the other language. I love that Jim Jarmusch put in this relationship where the two guys know each other so well and yet have never understoPearlineod a word the other has said. This is pure genius.
Pearline and her relationship with Ghost Dog. Number 1, she's a very cool kid carrying around a lunchbox full of books. Number 2, it's fantastic that Ghost Dog lends her books on the condition that she tells him what she thinks of them. I love it.
The way Ghost Dog flips his CDs before he plays them.
That Sonny's car is too long for his garage. Too perfect.
All the gangster's sunglasses.


Ghost Dog stealing the first Lexus. Fabulous devices. Very cool. And, when he drives out around the corner, it's a nice touch to have the police car drive past. I love that he brings his own music.
The overlapping frames while driving through the tunnel. This is visually stunning.Sonny Valerio and Ray Vargo
The kid throwing down toys onto Louie and his pals. He's not so much throwing as simply dropping. Very funny.
When Louie gets called in about the mess-up. I love the setup with the 3 head guys on one side of the table and Louie on the other. The entire discussion is fabulous - from Louie trying to explain how he communicates with Ghost Dog (via a bird) - to them asking where he lives - to them asking his name which they balk at - and ending with them telling Johnny to go get Sammy the Snake and Big Angie! It's just too wonderful.
Ghost Dog practicingGhost Dog practicing with the knives, swords on top of the roof. It's slow-motion and overlapping. Very cool visual effects.
The dog. Just staring at Ghost Dog.
Ghost Dog meeting Pearline and their discussion about books. This is great stuff.
Pearline's introduction to Raymond. I love her frank reaction when she finds out that Raymond only speaks French and Ghost Dog only speaks English.Ghost Dog looking at Sonny
Ghost Dog standing in front of the green metal door and Sonny driving around the corner - the sustained look between them is fantastic. Great music.
Ghost Dog shooting Louie. "I don't mean no disrespect."
The guy building the boat on his roof. I love Raymond's enthusiasm - and when he calls down to the guy in French and the guy answers in Spanish. Simply fantastic.
When the gangsters have all gathered and the pigeon comes to deliver the message. Watching the old guys trying to catch the bird is hilarious.
The license plates. Fantastic license plates. "The Highway State"
The shot of Ghost Dog pointing the gun at the poacher - the barrel of the gun in the foreground. Fabulous.
Sonny's death. I love that he is singing and dancing to a rap song as he gets ready for bed. This really is, next to the first death in the movie Cube, one of the most creative assassinations on film.
The overhead shot after the shoot-out. Very nice.


Louise VargoAncient Japan was a pretty strange place. - Louise Vargo
They whacked him. What're ya gonna do? - Joe
Passenger pigeons have been extinct since 1914. - Old Consigliere
Stupid fucking white man. - Nobody
Look, if you're my retainer, whatever the fuck that is, do what I'm telling ya and fucking shoot me. - Louie
All the passages from "The Way of the Samurai"