Mixing ancient Eastern philosophy with hip-hop street smarts and a Scorsese undercard gangland atmosphere, fiercely independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch paints a strangely serene portrait of a surgical, stealthy and enigmatic hit man in the understated and penetrating "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai."
Deeply immersed in the title role is the stoic Forest Whitaker as an assassin with unshakable focus. A high-tech thief, a loner from a ghetto background, a taciturn savant and a proselyte of 18th Century Japanese warrior code, he performs hits for a mobster (John Tormey, "Safe Men") who once saved his life. But after his most recent job -- killing a mafia turncoat in front of the mob boss' daughter -- he has a price on his head and is forced to eliminate his enemies before they eliminate him.
Jarmusch and Whitaker have conspired to lend a mesmerizing calm to this uncommon story of a violent but internally peaceful life. The simultaneous union and juxtaposition of oil-and-water elements -- the deeply reflective samurai mentality, ghetto life, the mafia honor, a surprisingly light comedic vein and a hardcore rap score by the RZA -- left imagery and axioms tripping around in my head for days after seeing the film.
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