Release date: 16th January 2014
Director: Carl Erik Rinsch
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Min Tanaka, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada
Classification: M (Fantasy Themes and Violence)
Review by Peter Gray
If you were so inclined as to find out what a ‘ronin’ is, have no fear as I can save you the hassle from going anywhere near this turkey of a movie and tell you that it means a samurai without a master. Fascinating stuff, so fascinating that it is perhaps the most interesting facet of ’47 Ronin’, a clunker of a movie that earns its entertainment value from how unintentionally hilarious it is – never a good sign for a movie advertised as an action film.
I’m not familiar with the actual tale of the 47 Ronin, which took place at the beginning of the 18th century and is perhaps the most famous example of the samurai code of honour, but with ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise writer Chris Morgan on hand you can safely assume this is a telling far removed from the source material. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if what transpired on screen was at least entertaining, but even with the added magical elements of witches, beasts and monsters, ’47 Ronin’ is still void of any excitement. The most faithful aspect of the story is seen in the initial set-up where Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) is falsely accused of striking a fellow Lord, Kiri (Tadonobu Asano) and therefore must kill himself in dishonour of this act. What’s really going on though is a devious witch (Rinko Kikuchi) is engineering the whole thing, and the samurai – now ronin – know their slain master was framed and plan a hefty revenge. And where does main attraction Keanu Reeves fit into all of this? He stars as Kai, a “half-breed” orphan raised by Asano as a child who just so happens to harness magical powers and keen fighting skills. He keeps these talents hidden from those around him, and naturally only reveals his ability when a heavy action set-piece calls for it.
Looking at all the countless subplots of the film, ’47 Ronin’ seems to have a lot on offer yet at the same time delivers nothing as every plot line is free of tension and interest. The biggest culprit is the supposed romance between Kai and the Lord’s daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki) who somehow hope to convince us that they belong together despite wholly unconvincing chemistry. Reeves has never been the most expressive actor but here he’s just ridiculous looking sullen and completely disinterested in what’s going on. You can’t blame the guy entirely but he’s taking the whole thing far too seriously which seems to be the films biggest problem – no one seems to be having any fun. Kikuchi as the witch is perhaps the saving grace, vamping it up like she knows what she’s involved in, but that’s far from enough to save a drowning production.
Like many overblown Hollywood films, ’47 Ronin’ had a troubled road to the cinema initially set for a November 2012 release before being pushed back to accommodate reshoots (without the original director) and 3D post-conversion (a wasted effort). With the final act of the film finally livening up, begging the question where was this relative enthusiasm in the 90 minutes prior, you can imagine at some stage there was something interesting or, at the very least, entertaining to be told but as it stands ’47 Ronin’ is the first big mistake of 2014.
My rating 1.5/5 (Groanin’ for ‘Ronin’)

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