Film Review – 47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin. Not as cool as the above picture leads you to believe

47 Ronin. Not as cool as the above picture leads you to believe

47 Ronin

Directed by Carl Rinsch

Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki

Review by Jordan

There is something incredibly odd about a Japanese samurai/fantasy film with American-sounding accents and such a simplistic summary of historical events, as if this whole movie is the understudy of the real thing rushed into the spotlight unprepared. Or maybe, though the thought be tragic for any lover of Eastern Eye cinema, 47 Ronin is exactly the movie it was intended to be…

Oh dear.

The plot here is unimportant, since the essential themes of treachery, redemption and fate are so casually executed, so the sole interesting element becomes Keanu Reeves, star of beloved action classics Point Break, Speed and The Matrix, slumming it as one of the most worthless heroes the genre has produced. His character, a half-breed named Kai, foretold to defend the Kingdom of Ako from a conniving witch (the striking Rinko Kikuchi, recently seen in Guillermo del Toro‘s Pacific Rim) and the evil Lord Kira of Negato (Tadanobu Asano), gets his fair share of screen time but not once do his actions or endeavors earn empathy or cheers; his tepid romance with the utterly irritating Mika (Ko Shibasaki) being the apex of his uselessness.

Aside from Reeves firmly in cruise-control, 47 Ronin also features some bizarrely swift warrior monks, flying dragon transformations and a severely high use of seppuku; none of it being as fun as is suggested. That’s not to say this is a boring experience per se, there is a certain level of humor and entertainment in the lamest parts, but its certainly an avoidable one – especially when combined with the extra cost and dimness of 3D.

For a lads night where nachos, Coke and banter are also on the menu, you could do worse than 47 Ronin… but not too much worse. It’s more one-dimensional than Mr Game and Watch, the action choreography is mundane, damsels uninteresting and a general feeling of strangeness pervades every scene. There are giant beasts, enchanted forests and armored juggernauts, and none of it makes any cohesive or narrative sense (this point made worse considering a boasting that this is based on a true story), nor does it stay in the memory beyond the jokes it will incite post-viewing.

But still, it passed the time.

1.5 acts of seppuku out of 5

39 responses to “Film Review – 47 Ronin (2013)

  1. I liked it better than you. I did not have any expectations going in and was pleasantly entertained. It is not the greatest bit of film ever made, but like you said, it passed the time.

  2. I shall save this for late night boredom, thank you for the review, the movie is as I expected. Wish they would show that Rinko girl naked, that would make it worth it I suppose. Well, maybe.

  3. Good review Jordan. I guess I was just in a good mood when I saw this. Because while I didn’t hate it, per se, I still realized that there were some things to both like, and dislike. Much like my feelings with most of Keanu’s films as of late.

  4. Ever since the Last Samurai I have felt that Hollywood shouldn’t do samurai films. Ever see Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai? Now that is a good Samurai themed film not from Japan.

  5. ‘It’s more one-dimensional than Mr Game and Watch’

    Mr. Game and Watch is a complex, 3-dimensional character, you just have to look beyond the surface.

  6. I liked the fantasy element to it, but thought it was trying too hard to keep up the legend that it’s based on and so suffers as a result. If it was a pure Fantasy Film it would be better. At least the special effects were done well, particularly Rinko Kikuchi’s Dragon at the end. I still think it would have been better if it were a foreign language film.

    Please have a read of my review of it from January.

    • I think it definitely would’ve succeeded more as a foreign language too, it really felt cheap having a mix of broken accents and no accents at all.
      Will do mate!

  7. i’ve been waiting to see this ever since i first heard about it as i think the real story of the 47 ronin would make a fascinating film. Then I saw the trailer and I thought ‘what the hell is this?’ I’ll probably end up watching it on DVD if I can’t see anything else worth renting, but this looks like something like RZA’s “The Man With the Iron Fists”: best enjoyed under the influence.

  8. This movie was an absolute turd and the trailer and marketing campaign were utterly misleading. 2 hours of my life I will never get back.

  9. I believe one of the biggest problem was the language, the script with superficial dialogues and as you mentioned the accent which would immediately build a distance between context and the audience, this distance stays there through out the whole movie.

  10. Once again you’ve convinced me to save my rental money and wait until it hits the netflix streaming service and I am suffering from insomnia.

  11. “his tepid romance with the utterly irritating Mika (Ko Shibasaki) being the apex of his uselessness.”

    This really captures one of the major problems with the way big studio films are made today. They have become so formulaic that the elements are stripped of any emotional resonance, the way that reheating a meal multiple times strips it of flavor. But audiences have been trained to read this formula as having great significance, so we get details like a romance that goes nowhere and stirs no hearts.

  12. “More one-dimensional than Mr Game and Watch” and “1.5 acts of seppuku”? Quite funny sir. I also heard this was incredibly distasteful although I will probably see it someday just to find out for myself.

  13. I had high hopes for this movie, but I ended up regretting buying the ticket… I have nothing agaist action scenes, but I hate to see the plot and character development being completely omitted. I’ve always associated Japanese storytelling with very complicted characters entangled in tragic relations, but they somehow managed to downgrade it to a very simple action movie.

  14. Pingback: Film Review – John Wick (2014) | Jordan and Eddie (The Movie Guys)·

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