Drama? Comedy? Action? Samurai weirdness? Yeah, that’s it.
Forrest Whitaker plays Ghost Dog, an urban hitman for the mafia who follows the Samurai code of ethics, I guess so that he can justify his violence because it sounds pretty coming from a book from which he recites endless passages. He lives in a shack on a rooftop where he also keeps pigeons. That’s so we know that he also has a soft side.
Ghost Dog is hired to kill a wiseguy but complications set in (which are rather unclear) and now the mafia wants him dead. Cliff Gorman plays Sonny, the lead goon along with Henry Silva who has very little to do but watch cartoons all day. In fact, a number of characters find solace in this activity. Anyway, Ghost Dog roams his neighborhood getting the respect of other strange no-name, no-face characters. He steals luxury cars – you have to wonder where all these cars come from in this crummy neighborhood – and he pops CDs into the players so that we’re forced to listen to lousy rap music for a while. He banters with the French-speaking ice-cream truck man despite the fact that neither understands the other.
Ghost Dog must defend himself against the mafia crazies but at the same time show special Samurai etiquette to Louie (John Tormey), the bumbling guy who hired him. After all, Louie’s his “retainer”.
Okay, you get the idea (maybe). Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, the film has a certain “je ne sais quoi” about it and it holds your attention. Whitaker is fine as the lumpy, stonefaced, bookworm hitman, but especially likeable is John Tormey as the poor schnook mafia go-between having to answer for his screwups. The story, however, is oddball stuff.
Lotta says “Ghost Dog – the Way of the Warrior” is artsy-craftsy Samurai mumble-jumple in an urban setting, but it is watchable if that’s the way you lean. R-rated for strong violence and language.