47 Ronin: Blu Ray Review
Released by Universal Home Ent
Keanu Reeves returns to the martial arts world with this story, wrapped in dishonour, magic and vengeance, and based on the 47 Ronin of Japan. Reeves is Kai, a half-breed and outcast living in Feudal Japan. Raised by demons, but rejecting them, he doesn't fit into the world of the samurai, but tries to live by their code. However, he's cast out from them as well - but finds himself part of a group setting out to avenge the death and dishonour of their master at the hands of the evil Lord Kira. But things aren't as easy for Kai and the gang, as a witch (played by Pacific Rim's Rinko Kikuchi) is slinking around, trying to ensure that they fail.
47 Ronin is a curious beast; neither magical nor mystical enough to engage that side of the audience and not exactly brimming with character development to make you care as this quest for vengeance continues afoot. Reeves is characteristically wooden in most of his scenes but he certainly impresses in the fight ones, with clearly some of that Matrix training still there in his background.
Of the rest of the Ronin, barely any outside of Hiroyaka Sanada's disgraced samurai register - the one comedy chubby Ronin gets a few laughs, which immediately marks him out for trouble ahead; but that's half the problem with 47 Ronin, it doesn't have character development or writing to make you care about half of what's unfolding on the screen. Certainly, there's no discussion over why Kai was so desperate to abandon his demon upbringers - just one of the crimes which stops you developing any kind of bond with the heroes within.
The visuals are incredibly flat also - despite some wonderful costumes and colours being painted on the celluloid pallet. The 3D is largely wasted and despite a few visual touches (such as a temple showdown and a final confrontation with Kikuchi's witch), there are moments that you really wish they'd just stuck to a 2D release, with subtitles rather than broken English from the actors.
Themes of honour, regret and retribution are there mingling in the pot, but they're never really brought to narrative boil, and emotion that should be present in suicides, deaths and lost love is curiously lacking. Kikuchi gives a turn that delivers a bit of pantomime villainy, but adds a touch of much needed OTT to the final mix.
47 Ronin could have been more - but by choosing not to embrace one thing or another, lacking in the action department and cooking up something that's way overlong, director Rinsch and the writers have concocted something which won't be remembered one way or the other - which, believe it or not, is a real shame for a legend that's supposedly resonated throughout the years.