03rd Jun2014

’47 Ronin’ Blu-ray Review

by Richard Axtell

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Rinko Kikuchi | Written by Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini | Directed by Carl Rinsch

47-ronin

An ancient Japanese legend tells the story of 47 samurai, seeking revenge on a rival warlord who killed their master and banished them from their homeland, making them ‘Ronin’. 47 Ronin is the Hollywood take on this legend, throwing magic, giant beasts and fantasy adventure into the mix as the Ronin, lead by a ‘half breed’ known as ‘Kai’ (Keanu Reeves), seek to destroy Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch protector (Rinko Kikuchi) and restore their honour.

The first thing to be said about 47 Ronin is that it is very CGI heavy. Some people find that kind of thing very annoying, although in this case I felt it did add a lot to the film. The magic felt a lot more potent, the beasts more brutal and it made the fight scenes of a hint of epic that, in my opinion, should definitely be applied to samurai (even if it made their swords a bit more lightsaber-y than they probably should have been).

That being said, this film is strange. The main character is Ôishi, leader of the Ronin and played by Hiroyuki Sanada and yet on every film poster and there at the top of the credits sits Keanu Reeves, even though he is absent for the majority of the film. The role of Kai does feel like someone took the ancient legend and stapled him onto it, just of Hollywood could have throw a love story and magic into the mix as well (because it definitely isn’t there in the source material). Also let’s not forget that it is Keanu Reeves. I wanted to see the film because he was in it, so I guess his job is done! To be fair though, I did like the magic element in this film. Rinko Kikuchi did a very good job of being a scary witch with strangely magical hair, and she did provide a very entertaining antagonist for this tale.

I think overall this film is a confused one. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be true to its Japanese roots or be a Hollywood blockbuster and therefore never quite managed to reach either one. At points, it seemed to want to be a bit silly and funny, but then took a step back and reigned it in, going back to the straight faced Keanu Reeves as he fights for respect and honour… against a woman with magical hair. Oh and there are pirates too at one point.

47 Ronin is a magic, fantasy, Japanese legend, sword fighty, seppuku-heavy film. It is can be entertaining at times but does leave you wondering if the movie was as good as it thought it was at the end.

The film is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray, courtesy of Universal.

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