47 Ronin (2013)

5.33 Overall Score
Acting: 7/10
Writing: 4/10
Directing: 5/10

Costumes, sets and effects look great.

Underdeveloped, one dimensional and superficial script.

47 Ronin

Dir: Carl Rinsch

Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki,Tadanobu Asano

A cliché riddled action/fantasy film about honor, 47 Ronin follows a group of master-less samurai on a quest to avenge the death of their master by a rival lord.  The production marks the directorial debut of Carl Rinsch, having worked previously on commercials and short films.  This is the seventh adaptation of a historical tale, peppered with fantasy elements.

At the start of the film we are introduced to Kai (Reeves) as a young boy fleeing from an unknown presence in the woods.  He is reluctantly rescued by the Lord Asano (Min Tanaka).  He befriends a young Mika (Shibasaki), the Asano’s daughter and grows up in the shadow of the samurai, never achieving his desired station in life because he is a half-breed (the son of a European sailor and a Japanese peasant).  Later on in the film Lord Asano, under a trance attacks a rival Lord and for his actions is sentenced to commit suicide by the Shogun, after which the territory is given to the rival Lord and the samurai are all stripped of their rank.  From here the samurai seek to avenge the death of their Lord.

Over all this is a fun film, albeit filled with things that are completely unnecessary. It is clear that the film went through some rewrites and a lot of it seems like it was left on the cutting room floor, so parts of the story don’t add up or work well. Many of the characters are one-dimensional, with very little screen time to develop.  Granted with a cast of at least 47 there’s not much that one could do about that.  With all its faults though, the film looks great, with a lot of detail going into the costumes and sets, as well as, well rendered CGI elements.  But looking pretty just isn’t enough.

The biggest faults in the film lie with the fantasy elements and the character of Kai.  To begin with, the fantasy aspect of the film seemed out of place most times, leaving only the bits involving the witch (Rinko Kikuchi) relevant to the story. The remaining creatures that crop up throughout were unnecessary and could have very easily been omitted.  Even aspects of (the witch) could have been toned down.  Kai on the other hand is a main character that could have been removed from the film all together.  Not being familiar with the story the film is based on, I’m uncertain as to characters involvement historically, but in the film he seemed irrelevant other than being a counter mystical element to the witch and adding an American face in a sea of unknown Japanese actors (although anyone familiar with 1996’s Mortal Kombat might recognize Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as the Shogun).  Everything here mostly feels superficial and one dimensional, barely skimming the surface of character development, wrapped up in a thin veil of honor and special effects with the sprinkling of an underdeveloped love subplot.

Although entertaining at times, if you skipped this film, you wouldn’t be missing much, the genre has many others that are far more interesting than this venture.

 

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Dan Folgar
Author: Dan Folgar View all posts by
Dan Folgar received a degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Central Florida in 2008, and is currently working on an MFA in Fine Arts. He is an avid film watcher and an enthusiast who is prone to ranting. Follow on twitter @grim842.

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