DVD Video - Reviews [Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (Special Edition)]
ORIGINAL FULL DVD REVIEW
Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai (Special Edition)
Release Date: 8/15/00
Run Time: 116 minutes
Starring: Henry Silva, Tricia Vessey, Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Isaach De Bankole
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Movie Summary: [Drama]
East meets West in this hip-hop infused samurai-gangster pic from maverick writer-director Jim Jarmusch. Forest Whitaker plays a professional killer who goes by the name of Ghost Dog and who lives by the age-old code of the Samurai. When Ghost Dog's code is dangerously betrayed by the dysfunctional mafia family that occasionally employs him, he must find a way to defend himself without breaking the code of the Samurai.
Widescreen: 1.85:1, Enhanced for 16X9 TVs, Color, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Deleted Footage, Trailer and TV Spots, Cast/Crew Biographies, "The Odyssey: Journey Into the Life of a Samurai" 30 min. Making Of, Music VideoIsolated Music Score by hip-hop group The Wu-Tang Clan's The RZA
amurai and old school Italian-American mobsters are the poster boys for short life spans. When you mix the two, one is bound to step on another’s toes inevitably resulting in them getting sliced or shot off - neither of which are preferable. Ghost Dog dares to mix the two in a film so full of ironies, we’re left laughing at the absurdity in one moment and stunned by its astonishing turn of events in the next. Director Jim Jarmusch employs a gang of washed up good ol’ boy mobsters and hits them with the cliche book on the way in evident from the hairstyles, to the speech characteristics and their undying loyalty, to fashion, to their choice of guns and automobiles. The only problem with this group of gangsters is that they were born 20 years too late and their empire from generations before lies in ruins - and their monetary credit leaves little to be desired. Times have changed, only their business practices and cologne haven’t.
Ghost Dog is a man indebted to a member of this dying breed of criminal for it was this man that saved Ghost Dog’s life from a group of thugs on the side of a road one day. The event changed this young man’s life and he grew to believe in a code of rules to live his life by in an effort to make better of it until his last gasps for air. Ghost Dog studied and lived by the code of the samurai - and as a contract assassin to the Mafia as a means to make ends meet. Certainly not a typical means of making of living, but this film is not your typical movie but more a visual form of poetry suggesting that the hunters have become the hunted. What does this mean? You will have to see the film for yourself. Artistic and hip, yet full of traditional subject matter, Ghost Dog is a unique vision of Director Jim “Watch Out For That Hair” Jarmusch’s that will have you wondering how this film about a samurai just might end. It’s only fault lies within the storytelling portrayal of the stereotyped gangsters that counters the seriousness of the film with a tinge of humor that upsets the pressing crusade of Forest Whitaker’s [Phenomenon] focused colporteur of an ancient Japanese tradition.
Visually, the resulting transfer here isn’t great with a dullness to the video and overall lack of color saturation. Considering the film was undoubtedly a low budget production, the DVD was likely limited by the quality of the source material. The DVD contains an anamorphic transfer though with full intention of delivering the video as best as is possible. A Dolby Digital 5.1 track is always nice, but that alone doesn’t mean you’re in for a highly active sound track. The life of this soundtrack is in the original score from Wutang Clan’s The RZA, but even this hard hitting mix of rap and jazzy trance demonstrates the average quality of the soundtrack with its frequency distortions in certain segments of the music where high frequency noise is heard. The center channel delivers solid dialogue and the main speakers supply the general soundstage where most of the audio will originate. The LFE will see a little work throughout the musical score and occasionally by way of sound effects like distant thunder. The rears are rarely very directional and are utilized mostly for atmospheric effect.
Slicing through the extra features we come across the lower level material - three teaser trailers and three TV spots. The usual Cast and Crew section is here offering a mixture of biographies and filmographies on ten of the film’s characters and ten of the crew’s members. Stepping up the features ladder we come to the Isolated Music Score which allows the viewer to wade through the music of The RZA. Another feature of The RZA is his video of his song, ‘Cakes’, from the soundtrack. Moving on we have a series of four deleted scenes from the film. The first involves key members of the Mafia sitting around a table with their unfortunate accountant who’s task it is to explain to these men the sorry state of affairs their finances are in. The next scene is an extended cut of Ghost Dog going through motions on the roof that he calls home. Next up is a quick excerpt of Ghost Dog’s French speaking ice-cream buddy delivering his latest sales pitch to the local citizens. And finally - Cliff Gorman’s Italian mobster enjoys an extended scene cut from the final piece. The shot depicts Gorman’s character rapping a Public Enemy piece as he prepares to go to bed - one of the more ironic moments in the movie. Rounding out the extra features of this special edition is the 30-minute documentary ‘The Odyssey: The Journey Into the Life of a Samurai’. Don’t stray too far - this documentary is about the samurai in the film and not an otherwise unrelated educational piece. The feature is a well produced documentary focusing largely on the philosophies of the Director, The RZA (how the hell do you say that anyway?) and star Forest Whitaker in respect to the production and their roles in its creation. Otherwise, the documentary breaks down the movie piece by piece touching one at a time on the samurai, the enemy, the music, and more. Artisan patches together another creative set of animated menus and sets them to musical themes from the film making for a good presentation on that front.
If you’re searching for an entertaining independent film that garnered a good deal of respect, but managed to escape most of the limelight, Ghost Dog is that film. Utilizing intriguing character interaction techniques, Jarmusch’s clever dialogue will keep the viewer alert and enthralled throughout. Artisan recognizes an original production when they see one and certainly deliver this title with the goods.