UK Release Date: 26th December 2013
Runtime: 119 minutes
Director: Carl Rinsch
Writer: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi
Synopsis: After the death of their master, a group of disgraced samurai seek the help of a half-breed to restore the honour of their people.
Hollywood loves to steal other people’s stories. This overlong and often crushingly dull adaptation of a well-wornJapanese samurai tale is a prime example of how cultural shifts do not help to illuminate a story for a new audience. In fact, as in the awful, depressing case of 47 Ronin, they tend to Americanise at all costs.
Half-breed Kai (Keanu Reeves) joins a group of disgraced ex-samurai, led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) to avenge their former master, who was killed by a witch (Rinko Kikuchi) under the orders of nearby leader Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano). Kira also has his eye on Kai’s best friend and prospective lover Mika (Kou Shibasaki).
Right from the start, the problem with 47 Ronin is that it has no idea what it wants to be. It seems immediately caught between the notion of being a faithful retelling of the Japanese legend and its desire to be a mega-budget, accessible Hollywood version of the story. The former is compromised by the casting of Keanu Reeves and the latter is compromised by the fact that the film is mostly really boring. And also the casting of Keanu Reeves.
Reeves is simply an entirely uncharismatic screen presence. He delivers every line of 47 Ronin’s limp script without emotion or personality, and he saps every ounce of energy from the action. It says a lot that, in the scenes where Reeves fights off enormous CGI beasties, it is the computer creations that feel more human.
For every few minutes of genuinely entertaining samurai action, there’s another 10-20 minutes of people walking through woods babbling about honour. What’s supposed to be development feels like endless verbal diarrhoea and none of the characters even come close to resembling real people.
The only real salvation for 47 Ronin is Rinko Kikuchi, chewing hungrily at the scenery in an absolute antithesis to her role earlier this year in Pacific Rim. Her performance as a shape-shifting witch leads to the brunt of the disappointing special effects. The $225m budget has bought a lot of stuff, samurais and swords, but no substance at all.
Pop or Poop?
Unfortunately, 47 Ronin is a hugely disappointing fantasy actioner that fails to provide any real excitement and suffers from a bloated runtime that it never justifies.
The Japanese tale is Americanised to try to hit as broad an audience as possible, but based on early numbers it looks set to fail.
The swords are shiny, but the film has a blunt edge.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.