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Blu-ray Review – Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai – “Glorious to behold”

Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog

Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai has had a fantastic 4K restoration and is due out on 4K UHD, Limited Edition UHD Steelbook, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from 23rd October 2023.

Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog) lives above the world, alongside a flock of birds, in a homemade shack on the roof of an abandoned building. Guided by the words of an ancient samurai text, Ghost Dog is a professional killer able to dissolve into the night and move through the city unnoticed. When Ghost Dog’s code is dangerously betrayed by the dysfunctional mafia family that occasionally employs him, he reacts strictly in accordance with the Way of the Samurai.

I have always a been a fan of Jarmusch’s films, so when I heard he was making a samurai inspired movie back in the 1990s starring Forest Whitaker I was suitably intrigued. I still remember going to the cinema to see it and being blown away by the hip-hop, gangster, samurai movie. It seemed unlike anything else, yet the influences from the likes of Kurosawa, Suzuki and especially Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï.

The mysterious Ghost Dog was saved as a kid, by a low level mafia enforcer. Ghost Dog then swears his loyalty to this new master and undertakes various hit jobs through the years. Due to miscommunication, honour and downright stupidity by other parties, the mob decide Ghost Dog must be killed. This does not end well for all involved!

L-R: Cliff Gorman as Sonny Valerio, Henry Silva as Ray Vargo, and Gene Ruffini as Old Consigliere

The film is like a dream. As if the essence of medieval Japan has infused the streets of an unnamed city in 90s America, which results in the film having a timeless quality to it. Ghost Dog will often spend time meditating on the ancient code of the samurai words within the book of Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s recorded sayings, Hagakure. This leads to scenes overlaid with pigeons flying through the sky, Ghost Dog practicing with his sword or images of nature which make the viewer contemplate those very words. Juxtapose this with the cartoons the various characters are watching that mirror events from the film and reveal the absurdity of violence.

So many levels within a simple tale of a warrior betrayed and bringing vengeance on those who deserve it.

Tricia Vessey as Louise Vargo

It is a film that brings more, each time I watch it. The ritual of breaking into a car or sheathing a pistol as he would a sword. Ghost Dog’s conversation with his best friend, a French-speaking ice cream man named Raymond (played by the always wonderful Isaach de Bankolé), neither of whom understand a word each other says, but who are in perfect sync with each other. The mafia trio of Henry Silva, Cliff Gorman and Gene Ruffini who bring some bizarre and uncomfortable moments with their conversations and thoughts on the people and events taking place. Ghost Dog’s meeting with the young Camille Winbush as Pearline reveals another side to the character as he passes on some of his teachings. Then there is RZA in a brief cameo. He passes Ghost Dog on the street and they each go forward onto their own quests. I always thought it would have been great to have another film with RZA’s character featuring that same scene.

The cinematography by Robby Müller (Paris, Texas) is beautiful making the streets of a decaying industrial area another character within the film. We look out over rooftops that promise brief freedom to those below and prowl the streets at night watching all the city has to offer.

The new restoration is glorious to behold. Everything is crystal clear and looks like it was made this year. The sound quality also means the brilliant soundtrack pops and the whole film is just lifted.

I have always loved the film from my first viewing and to now have it restored makes it wonderful to own once again. If you are a fan of the film then I highly recommend picking up this new edition. If you have never seen it then I think you may be missing out.

GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI is available to buy on 4K UHD, Limited Edition UHD Steelbook, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from 23rd October 2023, and is available to pre-order below.


  • Ghost Dog – The Odyssey: A Journey into the Life of a Samurai
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Trailer
  • Original Trailer

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