Characters / Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog
Played by Forest Whitaker

A hit man who follows a samurai code of honor. Louie saved his life when he was a teenager, and he has remained loyal to Louie ever since.

  • Bilingual Dialogue: Played with. Even though Ghost Dog speaks only English and Raymond speaks only French, they talk about the very same things.
  • Born in the Wrong Century: He imagines himself as a modern samurai, having studied ancient samurai writings. Tragically, there is no room for samurai in the modern inner city. His undying loyalty to Louie as a "retainer" only lands him into a life of crime and eventually costs him his life.
    • Ghost Dog's filters his experiences through an idealized samurai lense, which blinds him to the way things are sometimes. He fancies himself a "retainer" to his master, Louie, failing to see himself more clearly as a thug for a mobster.
  • Consummate Professional
  • Cultured Warrior / Cultured Badass: He's an articulate bibliophile.
  • Five-Finger Discount: He steals other people's cars, license plates, and clothing to achieve his ends.
  • Friend to All Living Things: He adores the pigeons he raises on his rooftop. When the mafia kills all but one of his pigeons, he is heartbroken. The surviving pigeon lands next to him after his death. He also admires birds in the woods while hunting down his targets. Finally, he attracts a strange brown dog in several scenes.
  • Genius Bruiser: He's well-read, particularly about Japanese samurai culture. Also, he's knowledgeable about firearms, sniper tactics, and electronics.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Despite his violent profession, he's kind to Raymond and Pearline.
  • Honor Before Reason: Out of gratitude, he serves Louie as a hitman, even though this draws him into a life of crime. Also, his loyalty to Louie costs him his life. He doesn't flee or defend himself when Louie kills him.
  • I Owe You My Life: He feels indebted to Louie for saving him from hooligans.
  • My Master, Right or Wrong: He remains loyal to Louie throughout the film. When he realizes that Louie is about to kill him, he does not even try to defend himself.
  • Odd Friendship: With Raymond and Pearline.
  • Professional Killer
  • Samurai / Street Samurai
  • Scary Black Man
  • The Stoic: He rarely if ever shows emotion.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Even though Raymond speaks no English and Ghost Dog speaks no French, they still think the same things.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Raymond's ice cream cones.
  • Tragic Hero: A running theme of the film is that Ghost Dog's Born in the Wrong Century and Undying Loyalty ways doom him in the modern world, where these things have no place.

Played by Camille Winbush

A little girl who loves books and befriends Ghost Dog,

  • Beware the Nice Ones: After Louie kills Ghost Dog, she points a nearby gun at him and pulls the trigger. The gun wasn't loaded, but she had every intent to kill Louie.
  • Bookworm: She carries around a lunchbox full of books.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: She learns from Ghost Dog and the books he shares with her. His death at Louie's hands was a moment of lost innocence. At the end, she is absorbed in a samurai book that the late Ghost Dog left to her, suggesting that his impact on her was very deep.
  • Kid Samurai: Maybe. One interpretation of the final scene is that she has been inspired to follow in Ghost Dog's footsteps.
  • Odd Friendship: With Ghost Dog, a samurai hitman, and Raymond, an ice cream truck driver who speaks only French.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: She's very mature and insightful for a child.

Played by Isaach De Bankolé

An eccentric Haitian man who speaks only French and sells ice cream out of a truck.

  • Big Brother Instinct: He gives Pearline free ice cream cones and is kind to her. During the climatic scene when Louie kills Ghost Dog, he holds back Pearline to protect her.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Played with. Even though Ghost Dog speaks only English and Raymond speaks only French, they talk about the very same things. In the climactic scene, when Ghost Dog is delivering a poignant speech to Raymond, the latter almost seems to understand.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander
  • Foreign-Language Tirade
  • Language Barrier: A distraught Raymond tries to tell Louie that Ghost Dog's gun isn't loaded, hoping that Louie will spare his friend's life. Louie, who doesn't speak French, can't understand what Raymond is shouting.
  • No Indoor Voice
  • Odd Friendship: With Ghost Dog.
  • Running Gag: He goes on and on throughout the film about how healthy ice cream is. Near the end, however, he admits that ice cream isn't very healthy at all.

Played by John Tormey

A member of the Italian mafia who saved Ghost Dog's life years before.

  • Badass Grandpa
  • Even Evil Has Standards: When Ghost Dog was a teenage boy, Louie intervened when hooligans were beating him up. He also warns Ghost Dog that the mafia plans to kill him. Finally, he calls out Vinny for shooting a police officer in cold blood.
  • The Family for the Whole Family
  • Foil: As Ghost Dog makes note, much like Ghost Dog himself, he's a old-fashioned "retainer" with codes of conduct. Ghost Dog highlights this when Louie kills him, commenting that he had to avenge his masters, much like Ghost Dog would avenge him if need be.
  • Females Are More Innocent / Men Are the Expendable Gender: Louie is horrified when Vinny shoots a female police officer.
    Louie: Jesus, Vinny. You just iced a woman, you know that?
    Vinny: You know what you are, Louie? You're a fuckin' male chauvinist pig.
    Louie: What do you mean, I'm a male chauvinist pig? You just shot a broad.
    Vinny: A cop. I just shot a cop. They wanna be equal? I made her equal.
  • Noble Demon: He has a code of conduct and honorable manners.
  • The Mafia
  • Punch-Clock Villain: He never tries comitting any reprehensible action unless he absolutely has to.

Ray Vargo

Played by Henry Silva

One of the city's chief mafia dons, he's the driving force behind the hit being put out on Ghost Dog.

  • Big Bad: Techinically speaking he's the man behind the entire plot.
  • The Don: The head of the movie's crime family.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Accepts his end gracefully.
  • The Mafia
  • Papa Wolf: He orders Ghost Dog to be killed because he wants to distance himself from the murder of a made man, but also because his daughter Louise was in the room. He tells Louie at one point that if Ghost Dog had killed Louise, Louie would be dying too.
  • Villain Respect: Oddly enough out of the bosses in the movie, he's the only one who seems to respect Ghost Dog's approach, recognizing his notes as "the poetry of war".