Sunday, August 17, 2014

47 Ronin

Directed by Carl Rinsch.
2013. Rated PG-13, 118 minutes.
Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
Tadanabu Asano
Rinko Kikuchi
Ko Shibasaki
Min Tanaka
Jin Akanishi
Masayoshi Haneda
Gedde Watanabe

We find out right away that Ronin are samurais who have disgraced their masters. Then, we don't meet any of them for a really, really long time. And the ones we do meet, we don't care about.

Oh, wait. I'm getting way ahead of myself.

Let's start with Kai (Reeves). A long time ago in a galaxy not far enough away, he's a young man who is the foster son of the good Lord Asano (Tanaka). However, since he's of interracial descent, Japanese and white, he isn't the most popular guy in town. You know things are bad when you non-chalantly answer to "half-breed." For this reason, and because he's played by Keanu Reeves, Kai seems eternally depressed and wears a blank expression on his face. That's before we even get to the real bad things that happen to him. That stuff starts when Lord Kira (Asano) and his personal sorceress, the very creatively named Witch (Kikuchi) show up. She tricks Lord Asano into committing a heinous crime for which he is sentenced to death. His right hand man Oishi (Sanada) is branded a Ronin and thrown into a hole in the ground. Asano's daughter Mika (Shibasaki) is told she will marry Kira in one year's time. Kai, our hero, is promptly sold into slavery. When that year passes, Oishi is let out of his hole, tracks down Kai plus 46 fellow Ronin, and go after Kira. This is all very loosely based on a true story. Really loosely. Matter of fact, if you have any knowledge of it, just scrap it for the purpose of watching this movie. Hell, I'm even going to pick apart my own summary of the film for you. Out of everything I just wrote, here's what you need to know: it's all over a girl. That's it.

Simple, right?


It should have been.

Instead, the movie plays out in an excruciatingly convoluted and increasingly boring fashion. It mixes Samurai lore with the purely mystical to less than thrilling effect. It's bread and butter should be sword heavy martial arts. When it gives us this, the movie is at least a little fun. Unfortunately, it spends far more time with our hero and his "friends" tip-toeing around in the woods talking to magical beings and spouting pseudo-philosophical declarations at one another. It wants to be Takashi Miike's 13 Assassins, but with a supernatural element. it's actually an even messier and far less exciting version of 2011's Conan the Barbarian, itself an incoherent slab of movie. This is definitely prettier, having some top notch production values. However, I'll say what I've said before. Pretty pictures do not a movie make. In this case, it's lipstick on a pig. That might make it a great looking pig, but I still don't want to kiss it.

You know what? I haven't even dug into Keanu Reeves' performance, yet. Or, should I say his lack of one? Truthfully, it's no more or less than what I expect. He gave us a non-descript villain in the better, but not great Man of Tai Chi. Here? You watch it and let me know if you detect a pulse. I'd say his rebranding of himself as a martial arts star isn't going too well. A quick glance at the numbers seem to refute my assessment, though. 47 Ronin stumbled its way to a $150 million take at the box office. However, you have to factor in what it cost to make such a beautiful mess. It had a budget of $175 million. Yeah, I'm right. Always.


  1. It's nuts to think this movie had such an astronomical budget! And directed by a first timer? WOW! I actually don't mind Keanu Reeves in certain roles, I know he's not the most expressive actors but I still like him for some reason. That said, I think this role requires someone w/ more gravitas. From the sound of it tho, I think there are lots of things wrong w/ this movie before we even get to the acting part. Not sure if I want to rent it, even if it's just to check out how bad it is, ahah.

    1. Yeah, this movie required a more charismatic leading man. There are some roles where Reeves does well, just not many. I was wondering about how a guy making his first movie got someone to let him play with $175 mil.

  2. Keanu Reeves is just too old to be Kai. Kai and Mika were almost the same age as kids and as adults he's 2 decades older? And it looked weird when people mistreat him because he was a halfbreed, and as if he was a young and inexperience in the ways of the world when he looks almost as old Oishi. And the brooding!

    1. Valid point that I didn't even touch on. Great call. And the brooding...yes.