47 Ronin was finally released at 26 December, about two and a half years after the filming started. I had been waiting for this since October 2012. Why? It was firstly scheduled for release then, I am a Keanu fan and Samurai stories and history fascinate me. Yesterday I watched this movie on a date with my husband. Here is my review.
This movie is inspired by a true story of 47 Ronin in Japan. Daimyo (warlord) Lord Asano from Ako prefect welcomes Shogun Tokugawa and other warlords for a tournament at his residence. There is one daimyo, Lord Kira who’s after him and his land. With a help of his witch concubine Lord Kira defames Lord Asano. Under influence of a spell, Lord Asano attacks Lord Kira. This is unheard of in Japan. The shogun condems this and sends Lord Asano for a Seppuku to save his own honor. Seppuku is an honorable ritual death when one stabs one’s stomach with a dagger.
The Shogun also sets Lord Asano’s daughter, Lady Mika, to marry Lord Kira after 1 year mourning period. And the 47 samurai of Lord Asano are declared a Ronin (masterless samurai). This story is about them trying to avenge the death of their lord, to save Ako and sabotage the wedding of Lord Kira & Lady Mika.
Then there is this Kai character played by Keanu Reeves. Kai is a halfbreed born from a British father and a Japanese mother. Lord Asano and his samurai found him in the woods when he was a teen. He was saved and had lived in Ako eversince. Kai is an outcast because the samurai believes he is a demon. After the death of Lord Asano Kai is sent to a fighting pit. Õishi, the samurai leader, finds him and asks him to help the samurai, now they are ronin to avenge the death of Lord Asano.
Despite bad reviews shortly after the premiere I went to see this movie anyway. I wanted to see it myself before taking my own conclusion. Unfortunately I have to agree with the bad review. Despite the mega budget 47 Ronin fails to convince me. It is a bland, giant production selling Keanu Reeves as its main character while Õishi, the Ronin leader played by Hiroyuki Sanada, has an even big role too in the storyline. Actually it is Sanada (recently seen in Wolverine as Lord Shingen) who carries this movie. His performance is convincing just as he did in Wolverine and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise back in 2005.
The rest of the cast performs averagely. The witch concubine of Lord Kira, played by Rinko Kikuchi is quite ridiculous to see. She tries to be scary, sexy and mysterious at the same time but the acting is over the top. Actually I was annoyed by her character the whole time.
And Kai, hmm what can I say about him? Keanu Reeves is still an eye candy but he seems that he is not really into the role. Sorry darling, as your fan I need to be honest. I have seen you perform better in another movies. In my opinion even when Kai was not in the script, the storyline could continue easily.
I find the Japanese tradition of Bushido (Samurai/Warrior code of honor) is fairly showed here. As a teen I read Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi and Shogun by James Clavell. After that I started digging in the Japanese history. and was really impressed by Bushido. Bushido means loyalty and honor unto the death, followed by the honorable Seppuku.
Did you know that Seppuku means one stabs his own stomach with a dagger in a cross movement. When he is still alive, a samurai standing next to him needs to cut his head off as a gesture of mercy. That’s why you see Õishi stands by Lord Asano when he commits Seppuku. It is an ultimate example of courage in saving your own honor.
Picture is taken from Yata No Kagami.
Perhaps my expectations were high cause I referred to the actual history of 47 Ronin. At the end in the credit title it says that this movie is inspired by 47 Ronin. That explains a lot. The scenes when the witch turns into a dragon are just hilariously silly, my husband and I were giggling when we saw this. Some parts in the storyline seem to be just patched into it. The man with a tattooed face on the poster? He appears in one scene, just one scene.
Deeply disappointed I do have a positive note about the beautiful costume and the special effects. That’s it. 47 Ronin earns 5 from me.