Wednesday, 14 May 2014

47 Ronin

Oh Keanu... I know you try and try and try, but it just ain't working out for you, mate. Look, we all loved the Matrix films, well, not all of them, but the first one is a near perfect film. The second two? Well, lets just say that while they ain't awful, they're the kind of the sequels that didn't really happen in my mind. Anyway, you had a good run, but I think now it's time to possibly rethink your career. Don't get me wrong Keanu; I'm not saying you were awful in 47 Ronin. I'm saying you're too good to be in film, it doesn't deserve you!

That's what I'd say to Keanu Reeves, most likely through his two bodyguards and a mouth full of broken teeth...


Directed by Carl Rinsch and out now on Blu-Ray, 3D Blu-Ray and DVD comes 47 Ronin, a film that, while enjoyable to a certain point, is far, far too overblown for its own good. 47 Ronin is a retelling of a classic and true Japanese tale of 47 Samurai who sought revenge for the death of their master. The Samurai, completely devoted to the bushidō code, were loyal to the end. 47 Ronin is both an accurate and inaccurate take on the tale. It's accurate because, well, it's about 47 Ronin who seek revenge for their murdered master, while its inaccuracies come in the form of a Feudal Japan that is more fantasy than reality. And that's fine of course, but 47 Ronin layers the fantasy elements on so thick that the historical reality of the tale is largely lost. Keanu Reeves plays Kai, a half-Japanese half-English character that was created for the film, who comes to the aid of Oishi to form a plan of revenge the 47 Ronin deserve.


The best aspect of 47 Ronin is also its biggest weakest, the visuals. The problem is that while 47 Ronin is a beautiful and over-the-top visual feast, the characters on screen can often get lost in its CGI focused story. That said, there are some stunning creations here, both of and not of this world. From a large troll-like creature that Kai must go up against to the very real one-on-one fight against the huge, silver Lovecraftian Samurai, 47 Ronin doesn't displease in the visuals department. While there are some moments of pretty crappy CGI, the open fantasy vistas and general rich, detailed and wholly stunning look of the film makes up for it.

While the characters of Kai and Oishi are pretty interesting and often have some excellent banter between each other, everyone else in the film is just, well, boring. The cast kind of gets lost in the meandering plot, overuse of CGI and overall mismanagement of screen time. This isn't the fault of the actors to be honest, but rather the director. It all kind of reminds me of how John Carter turned out in 2012. Sure, it was a pretty fun film, but its massively overblown budget bogged it down quite a bit.

That said about its shortcomings, the action in 47 Ronin is mostly great. The fights that involve real people and not CGI sock puppets are pretty fantastic, which is most evident with the Lovecraftian Samurai. But when 47 Ronin hits its stride after the slow first 45 minutes, it does entertain. Just be prepared to sit through an opening act that could have been condensed into some kind of a prologue.


Overall, 47 Ronin is a hugely mixed bag. While you'll enjoy the main two characters, the setting, music and overall visual aesthetic to the film, the drowning out of secondary characters, the overuse of CGI and the fact that the film drags on a bit too long might cause a headache. It ain't perfect, but once you go into it with low expectations you'll have some fun.

Blu-Ray Extras:

Deleted scenes - Four deleted scenes that while don't really add anything to the movie, are interesting for the completist minded viewer.

Re-Forging the Legend - A look at the original tale of the 47 Ronin that sought revenge for the death of their master. It contains spoilers so don't watch it first!

Steel Fury: The Fights of '47 Ronin' - A great breakdown of the stunts and coordination that went into creating the films action and fighting scenes.

Keanu & Kai - This small feature lets Reeves, the director and stunt team talk about both Keanu himself and his character, Kai. 

Myths, Magic & Monsters - From Pre-Viz to finished scene, this feature shows the viewer how the fantastical setting and creatures were design for 47 Ronin.

47 Ronin needs to sharpen its sword, but claims revenge nonetheless and gets a 3/5.

[★★★☆☆]

Denis Murphy


47 Ronin at CeX



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