A band of disgraced samurai, led by the mysterious Kai (Keanu Reeves) set out to avenge the death of their Lord at the hands of a ruthless Shogun, and a covetous landlord.
47 Ronin is based on an enduring Japanese legend; that of the Samurai who were determined to do what was right, even if it meant that they would pay the price with their lives. The film blends fantasy and legend together with a familiar story.
Keanu Reeves, like much of the cast, does not have a whole lot to do here, other then be a focal point in the beautiful graphics and images shown on screen. Reeves does not seem to have evolved as an actor in the past number of years, and is as wooden and one note as he ever was. Somehow though, this seems to work for the character; a half breed who is withdrawn and cautious, yet skilled as a warrior.
Kô Shibasaki takes on the role of love interest Mika, and while she looks fantastic in the elaborate costumes created for her, she borders on the annoying for much of the film given, as her character is, to wailing and crying about everything in her life. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi gives us a stronger female role as the Witch, even if she is as one note as her more simpering counterpart. The rest of the cast is made up of Tadanobu Asano as Lord Kira, Min Tanaka as Lord Asano and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shogun Tsunayoshi, who do little more than play stereotypical characters with the sole motivations of greed or honour.
Screenwriters Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini have attempted to flesh out the legendary story of the 47 Ronin, but it seems that they have had little inspiration, other than from other Hollywood films about Japanese legend. The film feels extremely derivative, and draws from films such as Seven Samurai, The Last Samurai and strangely, John Carter. The familiarity of the story, and the terrible, wooden dialogue and overly drawn out pacing leave 47 Ronin looking fantastic, but feeling thin.
Director Carl Rinsch takes a leaf out of Zack Snyder’s book with 47 Ronin, focusing almost all of his efforts on the spectacular. This means that 47 Ronin is opulent and beautiful, but with little substance or emotion to back the beauty up. While Rinsch may have been aiming for an intriguing and engaging story along the lines of The Matrix, the end result is more like Sucker Punch, albeit much more entertaining.
47 Ronin is based on one of Japan’s most enduring and engaging legends, but lacks the emotional strength to carry this off. However, if one looks past the wooden dialogue and one dimensional performances, it is possible to have a great deal of fun with 47 Ronin, just don’t expect it to linger in the mind long after you leave the cinema. Oh and, as always, the 3D is a waste of time.