Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Henry Silva, Cliff Gorman, Camille Winbush, Tricia Vessey, RZA
Jim Jarmusch is one of the most influential (and prolific) American directors in independent cinema. Jarmusch's films focus on fringe experiences in the United States; his camera surveys the country from a perspective that feels foreign, befuddled and amused by this place. Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, and Down By Law are all indicative of the director's deadpan style.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, with its color cinematography and hip-hop soundtrack, feels like an outlier in Jarmusch's body of work, but take a closer look and you'll see that it fits right in. The protagonist is Ghost Dog (forest Whitaker), a hitman who observes the ode of the samurai. By playing with the conventions of the gangster film and unpacking issues of race and urban spaces, Jarmusch makes something that feels, oddly enough, American. —RS