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Wednesday 18 February 2015

Burl reviews Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai! (1999)

Ha ha, yo yo, it’s Burl here! Yeah, here to review a Jim Jarmusch picture from the late 1990s! Yeah, yeah! It’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai! And as you may recall from my review of his most recent effort, Only Lovers Left Alive, I have a history of seeing Jarmusch pictures in slightly extraordinary circumstances!
I saw Ghost Dog at a film festival, at what must have been one of the premiere screenings in North America! My man Jim was there, and he’d brought along none other than Henry Silva, whom we know from such pictures as Alligator and Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold! Silva came on stage and mugged like crazy, ha ha! I think there were a couple of other actors there as well, and maybe The RZA, who did the score for the picture! Ha ha, I can’t quite remember! Anyway, it was a nice event, and Jarmusch and his actors were all clearly pretty excited to unveil the movie to an audience!
Forest “The Last Stand” Whitaker stars as Ghost Dog, a mysterious hit man who takes out hoods at the behest of other hoods, and follows a bushido code, and lives a monastic life on top of a tenement, and not incidentally keeps pigeons! He has an ice cream man friend with whom he chats daily despite the two not understanding one another’s language, and he also befriends and makes reading recommendations to a precocious young girl in the neighborhood!
Due to an escalating series of misunderstandings, this taciturn hoodrat also battles the mob! Ha ha, it’s pretty amusing to watch Ghost Dog take his vengeance using such techniques as shooting up through the drain of a bathroom sink! Then he invades their country home and does a real number on those goodfellas!
There’s a solid cast featuring a great gallery of gangster faces! This bunch of mutts includes Victor Argo of Mean Streets, Richard “Barton Fink” Portnow, Cliff “Angel” Gorman and John “Curse of the Jade Scorpion” Tomey! There are also appearances by Gary Farmer from Demon Knight and Isaach de Bankolé from The Skeleton Key (he plays the ice cream man), so that’s nice, ha ha!
I can’t say I thought as much of the movie this time around as I did after that initial festival screening! (That’s often the way with festivals!) It’s still an enjoyable picture, but not in the top echelon of Jarmusch pictures as far as ol’ Burl is concerned! I still much prefer Dead Man and Down By Law, for example! Outside the festival bubble and the 90s indie atmosphere which spawned it, Ghost Dog often seems too mannered and silly! But it is also frequently funny and consistently entertaining, and Jarmusch does provide the genre goods, so you can’t fault it overmuch! Plus it’s got some terrific cinematography from the reliable Robby “Repo Man” Müller!
Just about any Jarmusch picture will get a recommendation of some degree from me, and so it is with Ghost Dog! I’m pleased to offer this fine movie three rooftop boats!

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