Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Review)

Seriously. I’m a samurai.

There is one scene, a really short one, perhaps 40 seconds, in Ghost Dog that stands out from the rest. It just seems shoe-horned in, inappropriate.


The rest, thankfully, is brilliant, but that one scene lingers.

It’s hard to explain but Ghost Dog is easier to watch than to read about, as it sounds pretty boring. (But maybe that’s my writing.) As the crappy lawyer in The Castle said “It’s the vibe.” And it must be the vibe, because nothing else adds up.

Forest Whittaker should be the last guy cast to play a highly trained, nimble, almost invisible assassin. His selection should be seen as an insult to hundreds of other younger, fitter (OK Asian) actors, until they see the movie that is.

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Many years ago a mobster named Louie saved a young black kid from death at the hands of muggers, the kid later showed up and swore an oath of loyalty to Louie (who by the way is a dead ringer for Fat Tony from The Simpsons), before disappearing, only to correspond by carrier pigeon.

Only their Mother can…

Louie and the guy known only as Ghost Dog came to an agreement where Ghost Dog would be his personal assassin, untraceable and 100% efficient. Ghost Dog lived by the Code of the Samurai, and called himself Louie’s “retainer”, which is basically his hitman.

… tell them apart.

Unfortunately on the latest job Ghost Dog’s work was witnessed by the daughter of a Mafia Don, who is none too pleased at his widdle girl’s distwess and he orders GD killed.


Unfortunately as the mob have grown disgracefully and they are now all old, fat Italian guys who wheeze and grunt opening jam jars, they take some short cuts in finding Ghost Dog and instead butcher his pet birds.

Now, it’s personal. (But isn’t it always?)

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That’s it basically, the strength of the film is Whittaker’s titular character. Even though he is obviously a big husky black guy Ghost Dog moves with grace and ease, you can really see how he could remain largely unnoticed as he seems to be for most of the film.

There are long sequences in the film where only background noise and music is heard, in fact were it not for Ghost Dog’s only friend, a French speaking ice cream man, and a young girl who he swaps books and compares reviews with, Forest could get through 90% of the film with no dialogue. And you only think I’m making those two characters up.

Ghost Dog himself lives on a rooftop, alone aside from his pigeon buddies, he drives only the best (stolen) cars and carries with him his own personal soundtrack…

I empathise there, I hate putting up with bad radio, why wade through hundreds of shitty songs to get to the couple of good ones they play each day? Unless you are easily pleased. I find it more efficient to put good songs personally selected on some sort of information disc and carry them with me.

Ghost Dog’s only rule in life is to live by the code, something that he reiterates through brief spoken passages from his personal lifestyle guide.  There are no catch phrases spouted, no fancy or flashy moves and no breathtaking stunts. Also, given this is a “samurai” film, Ghost Dog amazingly doesn’t use a one inch punch or karate kick for the entire flick.

He doesn’t need to, Ghost Dog adheres only to his own standards and plays by his own adopted set of rules. So does this film, and it should be better known than it is…

Oh, and the crappy scene? The RZA (world-class producer, founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, over-rated MC) does the music for the film, well by the way, but in one scene he walks up to Ghost Dog, spits out some crappy line and moves on. It makes no sense aside from getting RZA a cameo in this film. I hated that bit.

Final Rating – 9 / 10. Whatever the “vibe” is, it’s one I unabashedly support. This is a brilliant example of a simple story well told.

About OGR

While I try to throw a joke or two into proceedings when I can all of the opinions presented in my reviews are genuine. I don't expect that all will agree with my thoughts at all times nor would it be any fun if you did, so don't be shy in telling me where you think I went wrong... and hopefully if you think I got it right for once. Don't be shy, half the fun is in the conversation after the movie.
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One Response to Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Review)

  1. Lourbusyser says:

    Loving by the way, funnest website I’ve found in ages.

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