Saturday, February 4, 2017

Now That You Know Who Saw Gerrera is, Go Watch Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Hipster director Jim Jarmusch has a habit of taking genre movies and hipster-izing them; that is, making them cool in an alt-rock/vinyl/tube amp kind of way.  From aloof vampire rock stars in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) to sensitive hip hop samurai hit men in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Jim Jarmusch always shades his film in an outsider palette that can be alienating to a mainstream audience, but then again, he doesn’t make movies for them.
Ghost Dog is the street name of Forrest Whitaker, who you may remember as Saw Gerrera the elusive cyborg rebel leader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) or the most sympathetic burglar in Panic Room (2002), a quiet, isolated but sensitive hit man who spends his days reading and tending to his carrier pigeons, and his nights killing mobsters for his retainer.  Ghost Dog lives by the Bushido code, and Jim Jarmusch sprinkles liberal quotes from Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure:The Book of The Samurai throughout the movie.
Light on the action, heavy on the introspection, Ghost Dog kicks into gear when he’s betrayed by his Mafia family and has to fight for his life.  The movie is surreal and charming in places, like his relationship with a Haitian ice cream seller who only speaks French, while Ghost Dog only speaks English, or the curious vignette involving a man building a boat on his roof, and especially his bonding with a neighborhood girl over their shared love for books.  Quiet moments are juxtaposed against scenes of extreme violence; he’s a samurai hit man for the mob, after all.
Look out for veteran character actor Henry Silva as Ray Vargo, the mob boss.  Henry Silva played a lot of TV bad guys in classic shows including Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-0, and I Spy, and also film appearances in Caged Heat (1983), Above the Law and (1988) Dick Tracy (1990) and has an IMDb page that goes back to 1950.
Also watch out for the RZA cameo as the camouflage samurai, his first appearance in film that would ultimately lead to The Man With The Iron Fists (2012). 

my first novel?  thanks for asking:)  it’s a the first book in a 4-volume supernatural martial arts series chock full of killer kung-fu witches, haunted carnivals, punk rock assassins, and a 24-hour diner with the best pie in town…
read for free on kindle unlimited or buy the paperback, available at fine bookstores everywhere (amazon).