Magazine article Screen International

47 Ronin

Magazine article Screen International

47 Ronin

Article excerpt

Dir: Carl Rinsch. US. 2013. 119mins

An unremarkable fantasy-adventure, 47 Ronin skimps on the samurai action and stumbles when trying to be about weightier themes such as honour and destiny. That's an unfortunate combination--and director Carl Rinsch's feature debut also doesn't help its cause by relying on an overly solemn tone as it depicts a famous Japanese tale about a group of warriors who banded together to avenge their fallen lord. Keanu Reeves provides his usual serene gravitas, but on the whole the dearth of ingenuity dulls what could have been hearty, escapist fare.

Saddled with a story that takes too long to get rolling 47 Ronin only intermittently springs to life during battle scenes.

This Universal Pictures release will try to cater to action aficionados who have already seen the Hobbit and Hunger Games sequels. With higher-profile films crowding the marketplace, 47 Ronin seems to be a niche offering, although Reeves's fans may help raises grosses. Nevertheless, dismissive word-of-mouth, coupled with the fact that Reeves isn't really the film's main character, will probably hinder 47 Ronin's theatrical prospects, leaving it to rely on ancillary moneys to make up for any shortfalls.

Set in 19th-century Japan, 47 Ronin stars Reeves as Kai, an orphan and aspiring samurai who has been treated like a second-class citizen because he's a so-called "half-breed," lacking the proper Japanese ancestry to be considered a warrior. But when the feudal lord Asano (Min Tanaka), who has looked after Kai since he was a teen, is tricked through witchcraft into bringing shame to his family and must commit suicide, it's up to Asano's samurai and Kai to get vengeance on the man behind their leader's fall from grace, the evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano).

Based on a Japanese legend, 47 Ronin wants to be an imaginative story that mixes the stern code of the samurai with fantastical elements such as dragons, magic and witches. But beyond a certain visual pizzazz afforded by cinematographer John Mathieson and production designer Jan Roelfs, Rinsch's film doesn't show much ingenuity or energy. Saddled with a story that takes too long to get rolling--the first act is burdened with a drab romantic subplot concerning young Kai and Asano's daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki as an adult)--47 Ronin only intermittently springs to life during battle scenes. …

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