47 Ronin review

Carl Rinsch
Keanu Reeves
Hiroyuki Sanada
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Rated: PG-13

The movie “47 Ronin” says that it was inspired by a true story, although I doubt the real thing included dragons and witches.

Keanu Reeves stars in “47 Ronin,” portraying the character Kai. As a young man, Kai is found in a forest and brought in to live in a land filled with samurai. The samurai, however look down on Kai as they feel he is unworthy of any good treatment, in particular, the lead samurai Oishi (Sanada).

The situation changes, though, when the lord of the land is framed for a crime he didn’t commit and is forced to take his own life to reclaim honor for his family. This is followed by the samurai under his guide becoming masterless, making them “ronin.” In response, Oishi seeks out the help of Kai and the other samurai to avenge the death of his master.

There are plenty of flaws with “47 Ronin,” but the most glaring one is the tone. The movie is set in a magical, mystical world with monsters, dragons, witches and other magical powers. This in turn should have the movie be a sort of fun, fantastical adventure. Instead, though, the entire film treats itself as a heavy, serious drama, with none of the dialogue feeling very light or fun.

This leads to a very boring fantasy adventure film that lacks action and a story that is held up by a weak script and acting. All together, it brings about a rather dull and at times pathetic experience. The film tries to be two things at once and fails miserably.

If “47 Ronin” had focused on being a fun, over-the-top type of film based on historical events in the vein of, say, “300,” it may have made for a wild and exciting flick to watch.

At the same time, if they had maybe just tried to play it straight and create a realistic historical drama, similar to “The Last Samurai,” it may have worked. The problem is that the movie tries desperately to juggle both and can’t pull it off.

The characters in the movie are also a major disappointment. Referencing “300” again, I remember how in that film the audience wasn’t introduced to every single member of the army, however, the entire unit was like a team to root for. The battle scenes worked because the troops were the guys that you would want to win. Despite not knowing every soldier, you got the sense of who they were.

In “47 Ronin,” there is really none of that. The movie should have just been called “2 Ronin and 45 other guys with swords” because that’s all it is. Instead of being heavily involved, most of the ronin just appear for canon fodder. The two leads don’t make up for it either, since Reeves just doesn’t offer any real charisma or any amount of believability to his character.

Hiroyuki Sanada does try to deliver a good performance, however the script is just so weak. The dialogue in the movie feels so generic that it comes off as lame. Sanada seems to be the only one really trying, too, since no one else really gives a memorable performance.

Despite the acting and story being a jumbled mess, one would hope that the action at least would be exciting and engaging, but even that falls flat. There is really only one single good sword fight in the entire movie and it probably lasts for only 30 seconds. Other than that, everything else is just a bunch of battle scenes with edits that are too quick. The final battle of the whole movie was entirely anti-climactic.

There is nothing that “47 Ronin” really offers an audience. The acting is dull for the most part, the dialogue is below average, the story is told in a way that isn’t interesting or exciting and the action offers no spectacle. It really is a shame too, because after some research, the true story actually turns out to be pretty epic. In the hands of better filmmakers it could make for a really compelling picture.

“47 Ronin” gets a 1 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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