From Stranger Than Paradise on, cities in Jim Jarmusch films have been a place where disparate elements and various cultures come into contact, and occasionally into conflict, with one another. Ghost Dog is the director's most explicit examination of this vision, its central character born into one culture, expressing a strong elective affinity toward another, and indentured to yet a third. Where some directors would have used the set up to explore a sense of postmodern confusion, Jarmusch is clearly fascinated with the syncretism at work. It helps that he has an actor as thoughtful and effective as Forest Whitaker in the lead role, conveying a strange mixture of melancholy and professional pride as he goes about his business. In addition to comparing two endagered, honor-bound ways of life -- Mafia and samurai -- Ghost Dog's profession also allows Jarmusch to continue the commentary on American violence initiated in 1995's Dead Man. When Ghost Dog kills, the director portrays the violence unflinchingly, not willing to compromise his vision of the character. Does his life of violence simply echo his environment? Does his philosophical foundation justify his way of life, or does he use it merely to excuse his choices? As usual, Jarmusch's deadpan approach leaves it to viewers to fill in the blanks, and as usual his unwillingness to supply the answers contributes greatly to the impact of the film.