<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Carl Rinsch. Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Min Tanaka
Exceedingly uninteresting with dialogue that goes at a snail’s pace, a lead actor so vapid you’d rather watch glaciers thaw and a cast of Japanese actors who can barely speak English, 47 Ronin is a muddled movie that doesn’t even have 47 masterless samurai all together in a frame.
You could hear them snickering in the audience. But it’s really not the fault of the Japanese actors who can’t pronounce the ‘R’s and ‘L’s. It’s the fault of the production company and director who cast them. If they wanted to make a ‘real artsy Japanese film’ then they should have made it in Japanese! It would seem they only did it in English for the benefit of Keanu Reeves who is best left playing emotionless automatons and aliens who talk in staccato.
Based on a real life tale of 47 Samurai who are left masterless during the 18th century in Japan and have to avenge their master’s death, 47 Ronin merrily includes CGI monsters and shape-shifting witches to reap the ‘benefits’ of 3D. That’s not really staying true to the Japanese story is it now?
Apparently the film and its first time director Carl Rinsch faced several issues, rewrites and production problems. Universal Pictures knew it would lose money even before the release. And it has flopped miserably. Keanu should be taking refuge in a forest right about now.
In this take on the legend, Keanu plays Kai, a half-breed who is ‘adopted’ by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) and his Samurai; even though they think he’s a demon! And for 30 years no one bothers to ask him anything about that until the evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi) kill Lord Asano and take over his kingdom forcing the Samurai into exile and forcing Asano’s daughter Mika (Kô Shibasaki), who loves Kai, into Kira’s conquering arms.
Leader of the Samurai, and the only character with some interest value in the film, Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) must compel Kai to help win back their kingdom and avenge the death of their Lord. All this is done so ploddingly that you can’t help but think Lord Kira deserves to be King.
Keanu Reeves can’t emote. He has the same lacklustre expression on his face throughout the film, as he mouths stilted dialogue and plods through a jejune plot riddled with holes.
And not once in the film do you see all ‘47’ Ronin (Samurai) rendering that title superfluous.
The only thing that keeps you interested is the witch Mizuki who looks like she should be in a horror film like The Grudge or The Ring. She’s fun though if a tad ridiculous.
47 Ronin was apparently made on a budget of over $170 million but only made over $20 million in the US in its first five days. Now that’s what you call a resounding disaster. They’re comparing it to The Lone Ranger but I’d rate the Johnny Depp starrer 100 times more entertaining than 47 Ronin.
Some of you may want to watch it for Keanu. I’d say just watch Speed or The Matrix again.