47 Ronin – Movie Review

Keanu’s Samurai Destiny

Thanks to Universal Pictures Australia, we had the chance to see Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin before its Australian release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!

47ronin 1Inspired by a true Japanese story, 47 Ronin follows Kai (Keanu Reeves) a half-breed who was rescued by a lord at young age who decided to take care of him, despite the concerns of his fellow samurais who would never accept him as one of them, as they think he was a demon.

Years later, the greedy Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) intends to take over the land of Ako with the help of a powerful witch. This eventually leads to the harakiri of the noble Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) and also results in an arranged wedding between Asano’s daughter, who is also Kai’s platonic love, and Lord Kira in order to unify the lands. Due to this wedding, dishonour has now come upon all of Asano’s samurais, formerly under the command of master swordsman Ôishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). The noble warriors are all driven from their land and stripped off their titles, becoming ronins; samurais without a master.

47 ronin oishiA year later, just before the wedding, Ôishi is set free after been in captivity and gets his men and Kai together in order to save Mika (Ko Shibasaki) and avenge their master’s death.

The Hollywood machine is back with its habit of making foreign tales into popcorn flicks with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences, something that 47 Ronin manages to aim as the whole ride is a fun 2 hour adventure. However, as a film based on Japanese folklore 47 Ronin doesn’t quite work, for multiple reasons, first of which is the language; it is shocking to hear the whole Japanese cast speaking English from the first minute with not even a hint of Japanese. Not only does this feel odd, it also ruins some performances a bit, since multiple Japanese cast members don’t have great foreign language skills.

47 ronin 2Another element that samurai films usually have is blood, and lots of it. But in this film nobody bleeds, not even after a Hara-Kiri or after losing their heads, not a single drop! A clear sign that the film was forced to be more family friendly in order to be suitable for a younger audience. During several scenes there are clear hints that the blood was taken away from the film during post production, especially during Lord Asano’s Hara-Kiri as the camera shows him totally clean after stabbing himself, despite wearing white ceremonial clothes.

47 ronin 4The special effects are well-made (also in 3D), although some of the CGI creatures based on Japanese legends do look a tad fake. They fit their purpose in the story nicely though.

The battles are pure fun, with some good samurai action that is also mixed with some supernatural powers courtesy of the evil witch and Keanu’s Kai.

From a marketing point of view Keanu Reeves is the star of the film, but his character feels more like a secondary one since it is Hiroyuki Sanada’s Ôishi who carries most of the weight of the film.

Overall, 47 Ronin is a film made with the sole purpose of entertaining, albeit in a family friendly way. It has good Japanese photography, costumes, battles and folklore. If you are expecting to see an American take on a Takashi Miike film or another ‘The Last Samurai’, then you’d better stay away.

47 Ronin is now showing in Australian cinemas