Director: Carl Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano & Min Tanaka
The tale of the forty-seven Ronin is a famous one in Japanese culture. It follows that a group of samurai in 18th century Japan became ronin (leaderless) after their leader was tricked into committing suicide. The ronin claimed their revenge two years later and, as a result of committing murder, then had to perform a ritual suicide. It has been called Japan’s most famous story that best details the samurai’s code of honour.
47 Ronin is Hollywood’s interpretation of this. Carl Rinsch’s feature debut follows the path of Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) being put under a spell, trying to kill his rival Kira (Tadanobu Asano), and committing suicide. Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) decides to get revenge and stop Asano’s daughter (Ko Shibasaki) marrying Kira, by coming up with a plan that will involve 45 other disgraced samurai. The 47th is Kai (Keanu Reeves), a mixed-race warrior who came to be with the samurai when he was found as a child.
This film is classic Hollywood – a story that has been passed down through generations via word-of-mouth, plays, and television, has been bought into the 21st century with the addition of witches, dragons, and demons. It might sound like a crazy thing for Universal Studios to try to accomplish and it is. They take a traditional Japanese story, add Keanu Reeves as the main character (he doesn’t exactly look Japanese does he?), and add the supernatural to it. This movie is pitched as Reeve’s being the male lead and this isn’t even apparent until the end (the first half of the film is respectful to the story and focuses mainly on Sanada). Oh, and as the addition of Reeve’s character didn’t seem crazy enough, they decided that he should have been raised by demons as well. Perfectly plausible.
This isn’t exactly a piece of genius, but it does have its moments. The CGI is of a good quality and what you’d expect from a cheap film as it’s only really used four times. It’s a shame that it’s actually a $175 million one instead. The final fight scene is good fun to watch but attracts too much attention away from the rest of the film as it is the standalone moment of brilliance. The worst thing here is how serious everyone seems to be. You’d think that these samurai would at least raise an eyebrow when encountering a group of bird-men hybrids that can move faster than any human. Do they? No. They’re content with taking a few swords and walking away. If this movie had gone to the extreme and been crazier with the additions, then maybe it could have been salvaged.