Ghost Dog : The Way of the Samurai
A professional hit man who goes by the name of "Ghost Dog", gets crossed up by the mob and is forced to fight back. That's the one line synopsis of director Jim Jarmusch's 1999 film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, starring Forest Whitaker as the hitman who lives by the code of the samurai. As you may recall from my glowing review of Dead Man, I'm a huge Jarmusch fan. But this move just left me shaking my head in bewilderment, wondering how it could get this bad.
Ghost Dog is hired for a hit on a man who is seeing the Mob's gang leader's daughter. He's hired in his usual fashion - by carrier pigeon! Ghost Dog lives on a roof with his roost of pigeons and sends one each day to his "master", Louie, who rescued him some years ago from a fearful beating. In some ill-defined way, the hit goes wrong and the Mob now puts the hit on Ghost Dog. He, of course, doesn't go down easy, and wipes out the entire leadership, except for his master, who, according to the Way of the Samurai, must be obeyed. This obeysance goes clear to allowing himself to get shot by his master.
This movie had lots of problems. First and foremost, it is never explained why the hit gets put on Ghost Dog. Sure, the daughter happened to be in the room when Ghost Dog waxed Handsome Frank, but it is never pointed out why this is a problem. Another huge drawback to the movie is the laughable way the "gangsters" are portrayed. A bunch of bumbling, going bankrupt, losers who shoot anyone that annoys them. You can't be worried that they might put any pressure on Ghost Dog's revenge, as they are so incompetent. And I couldn't figure out if I was supposed to laugh at them or just cringe.
And the whole time, Forest Whitaker is spouting some Samurai mumbo-jumbo like it explains away all the oddities of the movie. Motives are totally mysterious and this is supposed to enhance it, when it really just shows how half-baked the entire movie is. Jarmusch, who also wrote the movie, scored a big miss for me here. I just can't understand the wildly enthusiastic reviews on IMDB.