Some might put Forest Whitaker in Battlefield Earth, but others will remember him for his good roles, such as in Phenomenon or Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, which is probably his best movie ever.
Ghost Dog brings the way of the samurai into modern day urbania, where a hit man called - you guessed it - Ghost Dog lives his life by the moral code, owing his allegiance to one man and one man only, Louie, a mobster who saved his life several years before. Of course, Louie's friends want Ghost Dog dead, but Ghost Dog thinks it would be better if they were dead instead. What ensues, though, is not an action movie but a film that shows how modern day people can live by way of the samurai, and be content. Of course, that doesn't mean people have to go around shooting each other, but it makes the movie more entertaining.
Ghost Dog is a mix of action, drama, and comedy. There is a sort of one-sided action scene near the end as Ghost Dog takes on about twenty gangsters, and he does kill a few people that he's been hired to do, but that's about it in terms of action. More importantly is the drama, which is presented in a really inner city kind of way, which works for this movie. We get to see Ghost Dog's ethics and ideals, and his simple way of living. The most surprising bit is the comedy in the movie. Ghost Dog is not a comedy but it is still funny; it mocks the mobsters. Here are a bunch of aging decrepit gangsters who are a little out of date; half of them can't hear, and the other half doesn't know that their era died a long time ago.
Not surprisingly, the shining gem in the movie is Forest Whitaker. He talks more when he is reading quotations from the samurai book to the audience than in the movie, but just the way he moves and reacts to situations is perfect. Whitaker is flawless.
Sometimes, though, it seems like the movie thinks that it is being more philosophical than it really is. We are given quotations from the samurai book and then we have to apply them to the following scene, but half the time I really didn't get the connection. Although, when I did, it was very meaningful.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai isn't very well known, but it should be. Most people will find it entertaining and insightful; what more do you need in life?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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