‘47 Ronin’ Strikes Gold With Action, but Fails as a Movie

By Lisa Siregar on 02:02 pm Dec 23, 2013
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Keanu Reeves in “47 Ronin.” (Photo courtesy of H2F Entertainment)

Taken care of by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) since he was a young boy, outcast Kai (Keanu Reeves) grew up among the samurai, who value all things pure. As he was not born a samurai, Kai remains an outsider or “a half blood,” as an antagonist likes to call him.

Kai falls in love with Asano’s daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki), who retells their story from her perspective.

The samurais, led by Lord Asano, are under threat of Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), who see them as assets to gain honor. After consulting with a witch (Rinko Kikuchi), Lord Kira enacts his plan to rule over them by taking away Asano as their leader.

Based on the true story of the revenge of 47 ronin, or masterless samurai, that took place in Japan in the early 18th century, “47 Ronin” is an Asian action fantasy brought to life within Hollywood’s frame of work.

With production going over budget, “47 Ronin” ticks off all materials needed for a successful blockbuster. It stars Keanu Reeves as a handsome, skillful yet outcast leading man. The movie also features a handful of talented Japanese actors, from Tadanobu Asano as Lord Kira and veteran actor Hiroyuki Sanada of “Last Samurai” and “Wolverine” fame as Oishi, the leader of the ronin. It offers not only action, but a good amount of fantasy, as it is set in a land where witches and mythical animals are alive and well.

For fans of Asian action films, “47 Ronin” might be a dream come true. And it is true — a samurai movie has never looked this pretty. Some environmental shots that feature picturesque mountains really echo those we see in world’s most popular fantasy franchise, “The Lord of the Rings.”

The story also runs on the spirit of the samurai, who would see their own taking of their lives as an honor. At a glance, one would instantly compare this to “The Last Samurai,” which was released 10 years ago, but in terms of visual effects, “47 Ronin” is miles ahead.

Despite all the ticks, “47 Ronin” lacks a vision of what a samurai movie should be.

A movie with production on this scale might have been too much to handle for first-time director Carl Rinsch.

While the script from screenwriters Chris Morgan, of the “Fast and Furious” franchise and Hossein Amini (“Drive,” “Snow White and the Huntsman”) speaks of a desire of staying true to the concept of honor among the Japanese samurai, the fantasy elements are not necessarily valuable to the essence of the story. In fact, it feels like a cheat to defeat a proud samurai by mere witchcraft.

In the end, I could not help but wish for more believable action than mischievous witchcraft and the sometimes over-dramatic storyline that surrounds Kai.

The plot maneuvering in “47 Ronin” also falls somewhat flat. Rinsch spends too much time on character development, but during the key moments of the film — such as when Kai finally gains acceptance in the group — he reveals nothing more than a mere glimpse.

To make it worse, the dialogue in this movie are far from inspirational. One cannot only laugh at Kai’s supposedly heartfelt final speech.

“47 Ronin” has the look of an epic action movie, but does not offer enough thrills to live up to that name. The movie is an attempt at a masterpiece gone wrong. Film stills from ‘47 Ronin,’ starring Keanu Reeves, Min Tanaka, Ko Shibasaki, Hiroyuki Sanada and Tadanobu Asano, directed by Carl Rinsch, and written by Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini. The movie is based on the true story of the revenge of 47 masterless samurai in the 18th century.

‘47 Ronin’
Directed by Carl Rinsch
Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki
  • Kai

    I agreed, I like this movie actually. It is exciting. Review sometimes want the actor to fail.

  • Mesh

    Oh c’mon, this not an original review. The writer just follow the Hollywood critics in bashing the film. 47 Ronin is indeed an enjoyable film, just like Pacific Rim or Transformer – a big budget, brainless flick.