Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai - 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray (UK Import)Overview -
Across the pond with StudioCanal comes the 4K release of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. This 2160p UHD image has a slight upgrade from that banger of a Blu-ray Criterion release, but it's not a night and day difference. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix sounds good enough which is the same audio track from the Blu-ray release. There are only a couple of vintage bouns features included, all of which are on the Criterion release as well. Worth A Look.
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.
Featuring moody cinematography by the great Robby Müller (Paris, Texas), a sublime score by the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, and a host of colourful character actors (including a memorably stone-faced Henry Silva), GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI plays like a pop-culture-sampling cinematic mixtape built around a one-of-a-kind tragic hero. Described by Time Out as “very funny, insightful and highly original”, the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and remains one of Jarmusch’s best-loved films.
INCLUDED WITH GHOST DOG: THE WAY OF THE SAMURAI:
- Ghost Dog - The Odyssey: A Journey into the Life of a Samurai
- Deleted Scenes
- Original Trailer
Certificate: 15 / Running Time: DVD - 151 mins approx/ BD & UHD 156 mins approx
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
From a full-contact Kumite in Hong Kong (Bloodsport) to the mafia-run streets of New Jersey, Forest Whitaker removes his up-tight military police character from the limelight to become a quiet, slick ninja in Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai. Similar to Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1967 film Le Samourai, both films focus on killers who live by a code of ethics where their assassinations and murders define who they are. In essence, their work is a ballet of violence, but Jarmusch takes it a step further by allowing his character to explore two different mindsets - an old-school peaceful samurai and that of a modern-day hitman for the mob. The results are outstanding.
The movie follows Ghost Dog (Whitaker) who is a hitman for an Italian mob in New Jersey, specifically answering to the boss Vargo and the underboss Louie, who saved his life. Ghost Dog now feels indebted to him, which of course is an element of being a samurai. In fact, Ghost Dog reads, believes, and lives on the words written in his Hagakure - a few small passages that teach the reader how to become a peaceful warrior. Somewhere down the road, Ghost Dog is sent on a hit, where he does not kill a girl in the room with his intended target, which leads the mafia to put a hit out on him out of fear of police involvement. The catch is that nobody really knows who Ghost Dog is since he and Louie have only communicated through carrier pigeons since he saved his young life all those years ago. Leading a solitary and quiet life, the only real friends Ghost Dog has come in the form of a French ice cream truck owner and a young girl he befriends who seems interested in the way of the samurai.
Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai tells its story in a unique way that mixes some dark humor and a violent drama into one as the titular character himself must bring both aspects of his life - the peaceful samurai and the violent hit-man together in unity before the sun goes down. Whitaker perfectly portrays these two emotional worlds from dealing with mob guys to finding his pigeons massacred on the rooftop. The comedy takes place mostly with the Italian mob as they are more or fewer caricatures of themselves, speaking in vulgar sentences in a thick Jersey accent, complete with outrageous jumpsuits, along with a cringe-inducing scene where one of them tries to rap. Jarmusch wanted to merge these two cultures and genres where Ghost Dog would take down the over-the-top belief system in the mafia that romanticizes their brutal practices. At the same time, the ancient beliefs of the samurai are just as excessive, yet on the other end of the spectrum. It’s a fine line he walks, but it’s done perfectly here.
With a stoic and brilliant performance by Whitaker, some remarkable camera work from Jarmusch, and an impressive soundtrack score by Wu-Tang Clan musician RZA, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai is just as great, poignant, and weird as when it came out.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray
Ghost Dog blades its way to 4K + Blu-ray via Studio Canal in a Region Free Disc. Both Discs are housed inside a hard, black plastic case. The artwork features Whitaker standing by some sort of garage with the title of the film. For this review were only issued a check disc without final packaging.
Ghost Dog travels to the realm of 4K with a 2160p UHD 4K transfer with Dolby Vision. The Criterion Collection released this film on Blu-ray not too long ago and it looked fantastic. The color changes and detail was greatly improved. While this 4K image looks great, it's not a night and day difference from that Criterion release.
The Dolby Vision allows those nuanced ambers to shine through in those warm interior locations more often. The decaying blues and greens are a tiny bit more pronounced as well. Those dark scenes during the opening credits allow for the faint blue sky to contrast nicely with the city street lights. The red blood looks very bold and rich in this 4K image, especially over white porcelain. Black levels are inky and show no major signs of murky shadows. The skin tones are natural, superficially during the bright, sunny exteriors. Even the camouflage wardrobe looks amazing this time around.
The detail is sharp and vivid, even in those nighttime sequences. There is still a good layer of grain, keeping the image in its filmic state. Daytime scenes reveal the most detail with great closeups that include facial pores, individual facial stubble and hair, makeup applications, and more. The textures in the costumes, weapons, and vehicles all look fantastic. There are no major issues with banding, aliasing, or heavy noise here. While this isn't a major upgrade from that Criterion video presentation in 1080p, there are some small nuanced color upticks by way of Dolby Vision that make this worth it one is inclined to add a 4K of this movie to their collection.
The same DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is included here, which sounds good. But again, this is a soft-sounding film without a lot of action beats. Sure, gunshots and cars go by, but subtle is the keyword here. This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio mix that sounds great but is never overly used or chaotic. In fact, this is quite a simple audio track that fits the story and tone of the film, that of a peaceful warrior. Sound effects of gunshots and vehicles driving by sound robust, but never intense or murderous like they would in a giant blockbuster film.
They are nuanced and well-balanced, and maybe even a tiny bit on the softer side, but it has a greater impact in the long run here. Ambient noises of people talking on the street, an ice cream truck’s musical notes, and pigeons chirping all sound wonderful. There is a fantastic low end of bass as well when the RZA’s musical score kicks in that has a very good rumble to it. The dialogue is always clean and clear, and free of any audio issues to speak of.
HDD was only provided with a check Disc this time out of the 4K. The Blu-ray was not included, which is where the bonus features are. There are no new extras on this set. Just a couple of vintage bonus features from when the movie came out are included.
- The Odyssey: A Journey Into The Life Of A Samurai (HD, 22 Mins.) - Yet another vintage interview from the year 2000 with Jim, Forest, and RZA as they discuss making the film.
- Deleted Scenes And Outtakes (HD, 6 Mins.) - A couple of deleted scenes and extended sequences are included here.
- Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
StudioCanal delivers a great-looking 4K image with Dolby Vision of Ghost Dog. It might not be the greatest upgrade from that Criterion release, but for Fans of the film, this 4K is the only way right now to see it in 2160p with Dolby Vision HDR. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track sounds good and there are only a couple of vintage extras included. The Criterion version is still the best way to go with all of the excellent bonus features, but for super fans of the film that have been clamoring for the 4K release - here it is. Worth A Look.
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