Visually striking and rather enjoyable.

by Ed Blackadder

Going into first-time director, Carl Rinsch’s 47 Ronin, after reading all the painful reviews it’s been given, I was expecting to witness a steaming turd in glorious widescreen, but instead found myself quite enjoying the fantasy-samurai epic I was watching. It may not be a perfect film, or even an historically accurate one, but it most certainly served the purpose of entertaining for a couple of hours, offering plenty to look at.

I knew little of the actual true story of the 47 Ronin, on which this film is loosely based, and perhaps that helped where instead it had the puritans crowing loudly in complaint, but I watched the film based on the trailer and saw exactly what I expected to see. Beautifully rendered CG, stunning sets and wonderful cinematography.

I was, however, surprised that anyone would finance a film to the tune of $175 million for a first-time director to helm, with a story that would have such meaning to a great many people, not to mention an entire nation, but after the money that will undoubtedly be lost on 47 Ronin, I doubt we’ll see this sort of thing repeated anytime soon, and rightly so. If it cost Carl Rinsch that much to make a half-decent film, I dread to think what we could have ended up with if the director had a more realistic budget of, say, $50 million to play with. It’s not as though Keanu Reeves is the most bankable actor in Hollywood at the moment, or even the most versatile, for that matter, so I’m at a loss as to how the nod was given for all that money to be gambled on something that was clearly never a sure thing to begin with.

47 Ronin
Directed by
Carl Rinsch
Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki
Release Date
25 December 2013
Ed’s Grade: C+

The film tells the story of a young half-breed boy, Kai (Reeves), who has been raised by demons but escapes their clutches and is found by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), and taken into his care. Several years later, Shogun Tsunayoshi pays the Lord a visit, and while there, one of his noblemen is attacked by the Lord after he’s been bewitched.

To save face, Asano must commit seppuku, in order that his house isn’t left in disgrace, but as soon as he dies, his samurai are sent away to become Ronin. Samurai leader Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) is imprisoned and Kai is sold into slavery, but he had fallen in love with Asano’s daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki), who must now marry Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), the man behind her father’s death. One-year later, Oishi is released from the dungeon, he helps free Kai then rallies the Ronin to avenge the death of their Lord.

While the pacing isn’t one of this films strong points, or the depth of the characters, particularly Reeves’ less than inspiring one, the visuals are striking and give you something to look at during the imperfections of the storytelling, of which there are plenty. If you go into 47 Ronin expecting to hate it, as I suspect the critics were guilty of, then this genre of film isn’t something you should be watching in the first place. I think this is one you’ll have to make your own mind up with and if the trailer appeals to you then I think the film should too.