47 Ronin is a Japanese legend brought to the big screen but with a Western twist using Keanu Reeves as one of the 47 samurai warriors who seek revenge then honorably take their own lives.
Film making 2/5
Bonus Features 1/5
Recommendation 2/5 Stars
I understand a little about Japanese culture and know that honor is among the top virtues that stand out both historically and culturally. Of course now Japanese don’t take their own lives in the tradition known as seppuku which is a main point of 47 Ronin.
47 Ronin is a look at the Japanese honor system and how it impacts their history and way of life but the film just falls flat for several reasons. 47 Ronin follows the tale of the real 47 Ronin that took revenge in the death of their master then committed seppuku.
The real tale of the 47 Ronin differ widely with the film in both fantasy and witches as well as the general basis to the tale to begin with. Keanu Reeves plays Kai who is a half breed, part Japanese and part English but a complete outcast.
When he was young Lord Asano found Kai in the woods and took him in even though he was a half breed but still remained separated from the village. Later when Lord Asano arranges a fight with neighboring Lord Kira a witch casts a spell on Asano’s champion and Kai takes his place.
At the battle the shogun sees that Kai has taken the place of the real samurai who is supposed to fight and takes grave affront to the switch. When he orders Kai beheaded Asano’s daughter who loves Kai jumps to place her head next to his and Asano jumps up to take the blame.
When Asano says it is his fault that Kai fought the other samurai the shogun says that Asano can bring honor back to his family if he commits seppuku. Asano kills himself, the shogun orders Asano’s samurai Ronin and Asano’s daughter Mika to marry Kira after a year of mourning.
The master samurai Oishi who led Asano’s men is thrown into a pit for a year while the Ronin go into hiding while Kai is sold into slavery. When Oishi is released he finds Kai and then leads his men on a yearlong ruse to convince Lord Kira that they are dead.
The 47 Ronin fight Lord Kira’s men while Oishi kills Kira and Kai kills the witch turned into a dragon who is helping Kira gain power. Oishi beheads Kira and ends the battle by showing Kira’s men the head and the 47 Ronin take the head to their dead masters grave.
After the Ronin present the head to their master so he can rest in peace the shogun sentences them to death for disobeying his order not to seek revenge. The shogun offers for them to take their own lives instead of suffering the disgrace of execution.
At the last second he pardon the youngest to allow their blood line to continue but something does stand out about this that is not obvious. There are no assistants or kaishakunin at the ritual which goes against the tradition that the second would also behead the person committing suicide.
47 Ronin should have done something different like keeping to real life story which may have appeased tradition ideas behind the ritual suicide or Japanese culture in general. One thing that seems to be a downright affront to Japanese culture is the addition of a half breed and the witch to the story.
The actual story behind the 47 Ronin would have made an excellent movie without adding in the computer generated monsters and witch plot twist. That may be why the movie did not do as well in Japan which should have been a hit with the largely star studded Japanese actor cast.
Numbers do not lie and the fact that the film has not made what it cost cannot be denied, it’s probably too late to make up the difference. 47 Ronin just did not overwhelm with theatrics or plot and is no surprise that critics and audiences did not warm to it.
The Blu-ray release looks fantastic with occasional spots of bright that stand out like the bright whites and reds of some of the ceremonial costumes. A few scenes stick out due to the period like a couple of views of villages with clear bright colors and a majestic landscape.
The CGI monsters look pretty good in their classic Japanese style but stand out as a poor choice in the plot as they stood out in sharp contrast to the original story. Overall the video looks great and there are no problems which take away from the movies enjoyment even though the plot is a bit lacking.
Audio is also great with exceptional surround sound and very well done voice that is clear and actually very good for the largely Japanese cast. The audio has no problems and is really great for a top rating in both video and audio quality.
Bonus content includes deleted scenes, a commentary with Keanu Reeves and director Carl Rinsch as well as three making of features. The extras only amount to about 45 minutes of bonus content which is surprisingly short when you have so much to work with.
They could have used the real life Ronin, the original story of the 47 Ronin or any of the superstitions or customs of Japan to add some kind of bonus content. Instead we have some quick shot about the movie and making it that seem more expected of a Blu-ray release then necessary to help the enjoyment value.
47 Ronin just falls short of an entertaining film or that adds something to your knowledge of Japanese culture and history as you would expect. It does give some insight but not what I would expect from a film that is so central to the history and ideals behind an important part of Japan.
47 Ronin would make a decent film to rent but fails as an addition to any collection other than one centered on Keanu Reeves. I just can’t recommend 47 Ronin as anything other than a rental as it just did not have that great a plot or a good enough pace.
47 Ronin Website
The true story of the 47 Ronin at least one version