Invisible samurai is a gangster’s hitman

Implausible. If one word was needed to describe the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, that would be it. The movie follows a samurai, Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker), who swears allegiance to a mobster, Louie, after he saves his life. In order to show his gratitude, Ghost Dog doesn’t just become his bodyguard, he becomes his hitman.

The movie is strange right from the opening scene. Ghost Dog lives in a shack on the roof of a building, surrounded by carrier pigeons, which he uses to send and receive messages. As one of Louie’s mob buddies says, "Can’t we just get him a fax machine?"

Another strange thing is although he dresses all in black, and lives with pigeons, his clothes never get soiled.

The movie begins with Ghost Dog on the way to "whack" Handsome Frank, because he is sleeping with the mob boss’ daughter. Ghost Dog stealthily makes his way to a hidden car; no one sees or notices him all the way there. Then, after getting into the expensive automobile, he rolls the windows down, slides some rap into the CD player, and cranks the volume up. Anybody who didn’t see him walk to the car is sure going to notice him driving off.

Ghost Dog then kills Frank, but Louise, the boss’ daughter, witnesses the murder. She doesn’t care, but her father still decides, between staring angrily at people and watching cartoons, Ghost Dog must die. Louie is also put on the mob hit list, so Ghost Dog kills everyone in the mob family. For some reason, he also stops and kills some hunters. Short of giving away the ending, that’s the movie right there.

There are many themes lying under the surface, it’s just too bad they’re underdeveloped and, like most of the symbolism, make no sense.

This movie has one saving grace, not the gun fighting, but the peripheral characters. The aging mobsters never stand a chance against the amazingly fast-for-his-weight Ghost Dog. However, the characters developed outside of the mob story line are golden. Several scenes with a young, future samurai, Pearline, are heartwarming. However, the single best part of this film is Ghost Dog’s interaction with his best friend, Raymond, an ice-cream vendor. Raymond doesn’t speak English, only French, but they still manage to understand one another. This base level of communication has the best humour and characterization in the entire film. Ghost Dog is worth seeing just for this friendship.

Ghost Dog: Way of the Warrior opens April 7 at the Plaza Theatre.

 

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