47 Ronin REVIEW

47 Ronin film review.

Release Date: 26 December 2013
12A | 119 minutes
Distributor: Universal
Director: Carl Rinsch
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi

Any story that’s been passed down through several generations is likely to have been embellished along the way, but this adaptation of a Japanese folk tale takes things a little too far. Carl Rinsch’s debut feature attempts to turn a centuries-old story of honour and revenge into a sprawling fantasy epic, and it’s not entirely successful.

The best thing about 47 Ronin is undoubtedly its production design. The costumes and sets have been meticulously crafted, and the ornate palaces and hundreds of elaborately costumed extras look gorgeous. The CGI isn’t quite as convincing, but the various creatures are imaginative, and the monster effects are creepy. Even in 3D, the film is bright and colourful, and every shot is packed with detail.

Underneath all that glamour, though, the story is pretty basic. After the evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) has Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) killed so he can steal his land and marry his daughter, a group of exiled warriors decide to get revenge, with the help of super-powered outcast Kai (Keanu Reeves). It boils down to a lot of walking and a lot of fighting, as the ronin go from one place to another, battling minor, irrelevant baddies before finally confronting Kira himself.

There’s at least one too many stops along the way, and the second act is bloated with unnecessary sword-waving. Worse, there’s nothing much to root for because the characters are so under-developed. While Tadanobu Asano and Rinko Kikuchi at least get to slink around doing their best villainous smirks, the script gives poor old princess Mika (Ko Shibasaki, aka Battle Royale’s murderous Mitsuko) nothing to do beyond making sad faces, and even Kai feels more like a cardboard cut-out than a person. It’s a bit dull, and every lull in the action just gives you more time to calculate exactly how racist it is to throw a non-Japanese hero, magic swords, and a literal dragon lady into a Hollywood adaptation of a Japanese folk legend.

On the bright side, the final showdown is satisfyingly dramatic, with an especially ballsy epilogue. One quick warning, though: the 12A certificate and Boxing Day release may suggest it’s a family-friendly fantasy, but 47 Ronin is jam-packed with violence and death. It’s all totally bloodless, but still, it’s hardly the most festive experience ever.

Sarah Dobbs twitter.com/SarahDobbs

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