At the Movies - 47 Ronin - review

Keanu Reeves in '47 Ronin'.
Keanu Reeves in '47 Ronin'.

The real life story of the 47 Ronin is gripping so why does Carl Rinsch’s film end up feeling dull and boring?

Rinsch’s film is what happens when you blend ‘300’, ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’ and ‘The Last Samurai’. Even after you recognised all the similarities ‘47 Ronin’ is still awfully disappointing.

In 18th century Japan a band of 47 masterless samurai (Ronin) take revenge and preserve their murdered master’s honour. A remarkable premise, right?

The story of the famous 47 Ronin has everything a decent director needs to make a gripping action movie. Honour, loyalty, murder, betrayal and revenge.

Clearly not happy with all of the ingredients at his disposal, newcomer Rinsch and his team of scriptwriters opt to set the story in a Japan laden with “witches and giants”.

There really is no call for this sense of the supernatural and whilst clearly alluded to at the start, the film then goes on to try and be something much more credible and realistic. This constant to-ing and fro-ing between the real world and one full of large horned creatures and witches is so inconsistent that it becomes a distraction.

Keanu Reeves (‘The Matrix’) stars as Kai, a half-breed who is raised by a group of mysterious monks who are a hybrid of birds and men.

Kai is the son of an English sailor and a Japanese peasant girl yet for some reason he develops an American accent whilst living in 18th century Japan.

Reeves is so wooden as Kai that he would have almost certainly been the perfect surface from which to serve your Christmas Day dinner a few weeks ago.

After Rinsch finished shooting the film in Budapest and in Japan he chose to re-shoot some of Reeves’ scenes in London as he feared his leading man hadn’t come to the fore.

Rinsch’s film also suffers from its 12A certificate. It’s obvious from its St. Stephen’s Day release that it is aimed at youngsters enjoying the Christmas holidays but this comes with a price. The violence is never credible and I simply lost count of how many times bereft samurai offered to take their own lives or presented their swords to others around them.

After unintentionally bringing shame upon the province of Arko, Lord Kasano is forced by the ruling Shogun to take his own life.

The man behind the deception is rival provincial ruler, Lord Kira.

When Kasano dies, his band of samurai become Ronin and go into exile.

The Ronin bide their time and after a year execute their plan to restore honour to their late master. At the heart of ‘47 Ronin’ is a decent film but as a result of poorly judged plot developments the story suffers greatly.

As you’d expect with a film littered with thoughts of revenge it moves towards a bloodletting finale but it just ends up feeling utterly disappointing, misjudged and very unsatisfying.

Also, there’s a love story between Reeves’ Kai and Kô Shibasaki’s Mika. Their on-screen chemistry is so bereft of affection that they make Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson look like Romeo and Juliet.

‘47 Ronin’ is currently screening at the Brunswick Moviebowl; for full cinema listings visit www.brunswickmoviebowl.com or telephone 02871 371 999.

VERDICT: 2/5 - This film was surrounded with all kinds of rumours of unhappy leading men and directors losing control of editing the final cut and well, it shows. At the heart of ‘47 Ronin’ is a very interesting story but Universal opt to set it in a Japan full of witches and giants. Why? No-one knows. Keanu Reeves is his usual mahogany self and the ending is utterly frustrating. No doubt it’ll become a huge financial flop.