Screen Reviews

Ghost Dog

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Forest Whitaker

Extinction is forever. But occasionally, you get to evolve a bit, and even if you end up dead, your spirit flows on. Student of the ancient Samurai way, urban hit man Ghost Dog (Whitaker) steals silently from his secret pigeon coop lair to do the detail work for Mafia soldier Louie (John Tormey). These Mafioso are fading fast, huffing up the stairs and having a minor cash flow problem. They haven’t clicked on he evolution thang, but they do appreciate gangsta rap, debating the relative merits of Snoop Doggy Dog and Wu Tang Clan. Ghost did a hit, but there were some complications only an old Italian could understand. So, now we must kill everyone. It’s business, after all.

Populated by every Mafia charter actor ever filmed, Ghost Dog transforms the senseless murder of a Mob squabble into a mysterious Zen experience. Bits of Oriental wisdom float by, dodging the bullets and reminding us death is certain, but honor is not. Ghost Dog’s small triangle of friends, Perline and that Haitian Ice cream seller, provide little plot support, but allow his otherwise single minded sterility a small human touch. A small pit bull appears from time to time, simply staring at Ghost Dog and reminding us that… um… well… OK, that there are some things we can’t understand, but just are. Like Ghost Dog. And like death. And loyalty. And small animals.

Despite the multiple corpses and explicit cranial penetration, we have a subtle and intelligent black comedy. Black not only for the smell of death, but black in a streetwise, hip hoppy way. Should there be a difference between the violence of earlier mobsters and present day gangsters? They buy and sell the same basic commodity, a sense of clan to those inside and a specter of fear to those outside. They SHOULD appreciate both Vic Damone and Flavor Flav.


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