Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki
Director: Carl Rinsch
A westernized re-imagining of the classic Japanese samurai tale.
47 Ronin is based on actual events that took place between 1700 and 1702. When their master commits seppuku to save the honor of his people, the former Samurai become Ronin (A master less Samurai) methodically waiting for the opportune time to seek revenge on behalf of their former master.
The first hour of the film is how the Samurai become Ronin with the second half finally covering the revenge. Rather than make a straightforward telling of the story as has been done multiple times in the past. The half breed character Kai (Keanu Reeves) is introduced. A young man who is taken in by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), to the displeasure of everyone but his daughter Mika. Kai teams up with Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada the real star of the film) to add a white face and an element of magic. When Asano found Kai as a youth he was running in the woods with a demon mark on his head. Adult Kai realizes that Lord Asano was under the spell of witchcraft when he committed his crime against Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano). Oishi and Kai put together a team consisting of 45 other Ronin to embark on a quest to gain armor and weapons before striking Lord Kira on the eve of his wedding to Mika. To let them marry would solidify Kira as ruler of both his land as well as that of Lord Asano.
There are multiple missteps, for one the material doesn’t lend itself well to a PG-13 rating. You have combat with swords yet sword combat is far from bloodless. Anybody familiar with the concept of seppuku knows this is a grisly and graphic ritual which is shown but in such a way that belies the severity of what they are doing. The real problem is the inability to commit to going all in on both the Swordplay as well as the magic angle. The scenes with Magic are few and far between yet highly publicized making it seem like 47 Ronin is an eastern Harry Potter. The poster of the film showcases Canadian Artist Rick Genest with his awesome full body skeletal tattoo. If you blink you will miss him, He is essentially the coolest looking extra in the film. his entire performance is in the trailer which was very disappointing. It leads you to believe that the gun wielding character might battle some Samurai, doesn’t happen. The reality is that this is a quick scene where Oishi finds Kai, now a slave fighting on a pirate ship. This entire sequence seems like it was taken from an outtake of Pirates of the Caribbean.
I am not sure why Universal is releasing this as a tent pole Christmas film it is spread so thin over the two hour runtime it never engages in a real identity. Even the 3D is never really utilized.
I would skip this disappointing, hodgepodge of nonsense and filler that takes away from an important moment in Japanese history. Rather take a look at the far superior Samurai tale, Takashi Miikes 13 Assassin or wait till 47 Ronin hits DVD hopefully in an unrated version.