Total Recall: Thank Goodness For Hit Men
This Thanksgiving Day, take a moment to think about all those underappreciated assassins, just like the pilgrims used to.Most cinematic hitmen operate with an air of detached routine. Few are guided by an ancient code of conduct. The titular hero in 1999's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (80 percent) is a singular character in the hitman movie pantheon: contract killer, student of samurai codes, ornithology enthusiast. Jim Jarmusch's moody, darkly funny film follows Ghost Dog (Forest Whittaker), who carries out contract killings for a local mobster who saved his life years before, operating in almost total anonymity (they communicate via homing pigeon). When one of Ghost Dog's assignments goes awry, the mob decides he needs to be rubbed out.
Ghost Dog expertly borrows the moody ambience of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai (100 percent) and the dark absurdity of Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill (100 percent), and features a hypnotic score from the Wu Tang Clan's RZA. It's a very strange movie, one that combines genre thrills with Jarmusch's trademark quirkiness. Whittaker is on top of his game, playing a character who's either a stern, ritualistic loner or a man who's deeply, deeply troubled; the performance is so pitch-perfect that it could be read either way. "Ghost Dog is an impeccably shot and sensationally scored deadpan parody of two current popular modes -- the hit-man glorification saga and the Cosa Nostra family drama," wrote J. Hoberman from the Village Voice.
Ghost Dog: Freakin' ninja moves.