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Ghost Dog: The way of the samurai

Threat advisory: Elevated - Significant risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

Live by the code. Die by the code.

In the samurai tradition, Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) has pledged his loyalty to one master, Louie (John Tormey), a small-time mobster who saved Ghost Dog's life many years ago. As an assassin, Ghost Dog communicates only via his trusted carrier pigeon and moves through the night like a phantom, handling his weapons with the skill and speed of a medieval Japanese swordsman.

Louie is a foot soldier in a struggling crime family headed by Ray Vargo (Henry Silva). Acting on orders, Louie hires Ghost Dog to kill Handsome Frank (Richard Portnow), a "made man" and the lover of Louise Vargo (Tricia Vessey), Ray's beautiful young daughter. Unfortunately, Louise happens to be in Frank's apartment when Ghost Dog completes the job, and now an irate Ray Vargo wants the hit-man dead.

Using the strategic wisdom he has gleaned from Hagakure and other Eastern books, Ghost Dog prepares to battle the Vargo family. Ultimately, though, it is Louie that he must confront, in a melancholy showdown between two men who know their world is changing, its moral codes unravelling. In Ghost Dog's words, he and Louie are "from different, ancient tribes... both almost extinct". But Ghost Dog will not abandon Hagakure principles: he is a samurai, above all, to the very end.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Ghost dog: The way of the samurai image
Ghost dog: The way of the samurai image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film martial arts gang crime Mafia samurai code pigeon assassin kill wisdom loyalty master principle philosophy Eastern

Persons of interest

  • Forest Whitaker .... Ghost Dog
  • John Tormey .... Louie
  • Cliff Gorman .... Sonny Valerio
  • Frank Minucci .... Big Angie
  • Richard Portnow .... Handsome Frank
  • Tricia Vessey .... Louise Vargo
  • Henry Silva .... Ray Vargo
  • Victor Argo .... Vinny
  • Damon Whitaker .... Young Ghost Dog
  • Vince Viverito .... Johnny Morini
  • Yan Ming Shi .... Kung-Fu Master
  • Vinny Vella .... Sammy the Snake
  • Joseph Rigano .... Joe Rags
  • Jim Jarmusch .... Screenwriter
  • Jim Jarmusch .... Director

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report


Ghost Dog is a heavy film, not so much from the subject matter as from the weighty direction: Jim is unafraid of using silence to tell a story. Forest complements Jim's direction with a contemplative performance in which every moment has a nuance, every nuance has a shade and every shade has a past. Although it verges on the ponderous at times, there is some great action and humour to keep things rolling along.

The clash between the Mafiosi, the samurai, the French Caribbean and the Hood is a zesty mélange which is not exploited to its fullest. The excessiveness of Ghost Dog's life - his dedication to the samurai way is an obsession - obscures any cross-cultural understanding, leaving everyone as ignorant of each other as they were before he brought them together. Ah, well, that's a pretty good reflection of urban living at the end of the second millennium (current Western calendar).

If you want a flick that's light on medieval Japanese philosophy but heavy on action you should look at Ronin - master-less warriors hiring themselves to the highest bidder - rather than Ghost Dog: The way of the samurai. For the samurai, meaning is as important as action.

A soldier's life: overwhelming boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Languages: English
  • Picture: Widescreen
  • Special features:
    • Featurettes: Out-takes
    • Trailers: Theatrical

Security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Medium level violence, medium level coarse language, closed captions)

Surveillance time

116 minutes (1:56 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 13 December 2000
DVD rental: 7 June 2006
DVD retail: 21 June 2006

Cinema surveillance images

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