Director: Carl Rinsch Starring: Keanu reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada & Ko Shibasaki Synopsis: “A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.” Runtime: 118 minutes
“Rivers of blood and mountains of corpses will not stand in our way“
47 Ronin comes across as a mashup between The Lord Of The Rings & 300, mixing fantastical storytelling elements with OTT stylised violence, but for a film with such promise, it is a shame then that it never truly gets going and leaves you with a feeling that more could have been made of its promising true-life story.
Keanu Reeves plays Kai, an orphaned child who is took in by a group of samurai after being left for dead in feudal Japan. Kai is raised by the group, yet is never truly accepted as one of them, despite seemingly helping them win many battles over the years. Reeve’s Kai is a tortured soul, he longs to be accepted by his adopted family, but knows in his heart that will never be the case. After their master is killed, the samurai become ronin (a group of warriors with no leader), and with Kai’s eventual help, they seek justice on those who murdered their master.
47 Ronin is the kind of film you dream of seeing when you’re a teenage boy. There are samurai’s, monsters, magic and lots of sword fights, and when you’re a teenage boy this kind of thing would all equate to quite possibly the best film ever made. Unfortunately, as I’m a nearly 30-year-old man, these kind of simple pleasures need a little more to accompany them. Things such as character development or clever storytelling come into play and the basics aren’t always enough. Yes there’s always room for a bit of big, dumb, fun but 47 Ronin fails on all those accounts.
With Keanu Reeves seemingly only capable of one facial expression, he seems to coast through the movie, looking eternally sullen and never once does he seem able to convey any sense of emotion or bring any sort of gravitas to the film. That’s not to say that I think Reeves is a bad actor at all, but I do believe he was a bad choice for this movie, and that his role could have been better handled if it had been given to someone who looked vaguely interested in the films events.
The rest of the cast is made up of talented Japanese actors who perform admirably, but who never get to explore their characters and suffer from one-dimensional casting. There’s the fat yet funny one, the love interest, the old master and the one who dislikes our hero but who begrudgingly has to respect him. Again this seems a waste, as the more than capable cast is given nothing to work with and results in the film having no emotional hook for its audience.
For director Carl Rinsch, this is his first feature film. Having only previously directed three short films, he seems out of his element here and in more experienced hands we could have had something much more entertaining. Rinsch’s vision is all style and no substance and comes across as the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac, it looks great and tastes ok, but once you’re done with it you still feel hungry.
In summary: 47 Ronin feels like a complete missed opportunity. A good story and a talented cast deserve more than they are given here, and thusly leave’s the audience feeling as if more could have been made of this otherwise interesting tale.