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Film Review – 47 Ronin

2 min read

47 Ronin is the latest film adaptation of the classic Japanese samurai legend.  In the original 18th century tale, a group of samurai are left leaderless (ronin) after their feudal lord was forced to commit ritual suicide, or “seppuku”, for assaulting a court official. The ronin waited patiently and avenged their master’s honor by killing the official and so were themselves obliged to commit seppuku for the murder. The true story has been popularized and greatly embellished by Japanese culture as a symbol of bushido, or the samurai honor code, and is now deeply embedded in the nation’s culture.

This big budget adaptation puts a spin on the original tale by including a monster, a witch who beguiles the feudal lord, and a “half-breed” Kai (Keanu Reeves) with a mysterious past who becomes entangled in forbidden love.  Though probably creating more main-stream appeal, these elements along with the visual effects give 47 Ronin a bit of generic, Hollywood fantasy-film feel.  Though the film is visually very rich and beautiful with gorgeous, color-saturated settings, it fails to capture a sense of sweeping grandeur that we might expect from an epic legend and the climactic fight scene is very lackluster.  One exception is the costumes, which are incredible. As far as acting goes,  Keanu Reeves delivers his standard, one-dimensional performance but the remaining cast of predominantly Asian actors is superb.

47 Ronin Insert

Despite a 175 million dollar budget, relatively unknown director Carl Rinsch (curious to know how he got that gig) isn’t able to create a vision of large-scale, epic grandeur one would expect from a film with a story of this magnitude and his lack of experience is evident.  47 Ronin does have some enjoyable moments and at time does capture the beauty and artistry of ancient Japan and Japanese culture, but the lack of scale and standard effects give it a very generic feel.

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