On first seeing at TIFF in '99 I found the film's calculated coolness and melancholy a little pretentious. On watching now realize this way be one of Jarmusch's best realized creations. The melancholy and loneliness of both hitman and diminished in stature mob is quite affecting as is the warm humour lying just beneath the surface. Whitaker is great here as is a virtual casting call of New York character actors.
Although I can't put this in the same league as Melville's masterpiece, this is still a damn fine reimagining of his story. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it, especially to those who are either familiar with the other Jarmusch films or have seen Le Samouraï.
As he had done with "Dead Man" in "making a Western for people who don't like Westerns," I feel Jarmusch has made "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" in the a like fashion; a samurai film for people who can't get past katanas, wooden sandals and tatami mats...not that that's the reason he set out to make it, of course, but I felt Depp's William Blake and Whitaker's Ghost Dog to be all too kindred of spirits.
Interesting but uneven effort from Jim Jarmusch. It can be slow and plodding at times, but a number of inspired scenes and clever touches keep it compelling for fans of Jarmusch's offbeat style, though it doesn't rank among his best.