Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France/Germany/USA/Japan, 1999. Pandora Filmproduktion, Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Degeto Film, Plywood Productions, Bac Films, Canal+, JVC Entertainment Networks. Screenplay by Jim Jarmusch. Cinematography by Robby Muller. Produced by Richard Guay, Jim Jarmusch. Music by RZA. Production Design by Ted Berner. Costume Design by John Dunn. Film Editing by Jay Rabinowitz.
Forest Whitaker is terrific as a hired hit man who styles himself a modern day samurai, elegantly swinging his guns into his jacket as if they were swords and keeping his copy of the Hagekure on him for reference at all times. He is best friends with a Haitian ice cream seller (Isaach De Bankolé) who only speaks French, which Whitaker does not understand, and is the retainer for a mobster who once saved his life, a debt which he holds in high regard. When he pulls off a hit for his old friend that makes him the target of mafiosos who don’t like loose ends, Whitaker must figure out a way to get ahead of a group of tired, old gangsters who want him removed permanently. Jim Jarmusch combines elements of modern and classic film genres with perfect ease in telling this engaging and at times very funny tale, moving through the plot with cold precision and presenting a number of characters who are incisively memorable. Only in a Jarmusch film is vengeance not just right but necessary for the broken down villains targeted by a coolly dispassionate killer, and only in a Jarmusch film can a samurai warrior be made that much more elegant by musical accompaniment provided by RZA.
The Criterion Collection: #1057