Keanu Reeves makes an explosive return to action-adventure in 47 Ronin. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves)—a half-breed they once rejected—as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors.
As this exiled, enslaved outcast becomes their most deadly weapon, he will transform into the hero who inspires this band of outnumbered rebels to seize eternity.
Helmed by director Carl Rinsch (The Gift), 47 Ronin is produced by Scott Stuber (Ted, Identity Thief), Pamela Abdy (Identity Thief, upcoming Endless Love) and Eric McLeod (Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Austin Powers series).
I’m not sure how to review this movie. 47 Ronin is pretty much… strange…and bad. I’ll start with being honest here and saying that I’m not a fan of Keanu Reeves, whose acting to me has always come across melodramatic and fake. But regardless of his acting, it really is the script that lets down this $175 million movie.
The movie begins with a voice-over and a series of animated graphics telling us the story of ancient Japan, voiced by english actor Ron Bottitta- which is annoying and over-dramatic. We are introduced to Kai (played by Keanu Reeves) when the Samurai find him running for his life in the forrest as a child. What they call a ‘half-breed’- being half British/ half Japanese- the Samurai mostly reject him, however he is brought to live with them by their Lord Asano (played by Min Tanaka). Eventually he grows to become an accomplished fighter, whilst also falling in love with Lord Asano’s daughter Mika (played by Ko Shibasaki), and despite helping the Samurai to kill demons he is still rejected by them.
On the arrival of Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (Shogun being military governors of Japan between 1192 and 1867), his master of ceremonies Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano, whom AP reckons looks like a Japanese Loki) also falls for Mika, is found out to be under the spell of Kira’s advisor, the witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi). Eventually the witch causes the expulsion of Kai, and an honourable death and suicide of Lord Asano, with the Samurai promising to seek revenge with Kai’s help.
There seems to be a misconnection here with the Writers and Directors trying to westernise a Japanese story, it’s messy, corny and they seem to constantly be trying to explain what everything means, which feels condescending to not only the audience but to Japanese culture also. The story feels disjointed and drawn out in a scrambled way- it’s almost an hour before we find out what the witch’s actual scheme is, and a large portion of the film is spent by the Samurai trying to find weapons, while their initial fight- which fails- only goes for a minute, and their final one is also very short.
The graphics and CGI are also juvenile and cheesy- when we finally meet the demons who raised Kai (but never actually find out how this came to be, we’re simply told that a fisherman and woman had him and abandoned him in the forrest) the demon looks more like a man with a face that kinda looks like early Lord Voldemort (with nose) crossed with a potato, this was meant to be serious but we were laughing. Saying that, the fighting scenes were well choreographed, and some of the set designs were beautiful, but that is the only positive comments I can make. Unfortunately the acting too lets down this movie.
The sad thing is that forty-seven ronin is a true and famous Japanese story that took place in the early 18th Century about a group of samurai who were left leaderless (therefore becoming ronin) after their lord Asano Naganori was compelled to commit ritual suicide for assaulting a court official named Kira Yoshinaka.The ronin avenged their master’s honour by killing Kira, after waiting and planning for almost two years, following which they were also forced to commit ritual suicide for murder. The story became famous in Japan as an example of loyalty and sacrifice- two characteristics so valued in their culture. The story is amazing and incredible to believe- 47 men seeking revenge for their leader, knowing that they would be killed for doing so. Such an amazing story I feel deserves a more realistic account of their story.
HA: So, I told you I didn’t know how I was going to review this, and that’s exactly how I started…
AP: This movie is just plagued with flaws. Considering the budget was so huge, I would have thought that the SFX would have been flawless, when they were entirely the opposite. The white wolf in particular was extremely bad. Like a crappy cut and paste job.
HA: I mean, I wasn’t expecting much, I don’t from most Keanu Reeves movies, but I was hoping the special effects would at least be good. But no.
AP: I’d also like to point out that quite a few of the characters seemed to have their voices dubbed. I’m not sure if it was with entirely new voices or if they just re-recorded some of the script but there were instances where the dialogue did not match up with the mouth movements of characters.
HA: You’re probably right- I don’t know much about Japanese film but I read that these actors are some of Japan’s best, but all the acting just felt so overly emotional and forced to me. But that’s not even the least of it! The script itself was just…bad.
AP: It was very cheesy. It is quite an insulting, mythic interpretation of what is in reality a very interesting true story.
HA: And that is what is quite sad at the end of the day, such a huge amount of money spent on a terrible version of what is an actually very courageous and inspiring story.
HA: Final Comment is- Please do not see this movie.
AP: One for the bargain bin at the local DVD store.