Some of us celebrated this Christmas with a hint of Eastern culture, courtesy of Keanu Reeves' latest film, 47 Ronin. Ditching that Santa outfit for the kickass red samurai suit worn by Kai (Keanu's character) sounds like a tradition I'm willing to partake in every year. Also, Christmas is supposed to be magical, right? 47 Ronin serves plenty of that. Sorcery is like half the plot of this movie.
47 Ronin looks very watchable to me, personally. But for some reason, film critics seem to dislike it. Insults vary from "mildly entertaining" to "dumb" and "garbage." Whereas I see awesome samurai costumes; epic fight scenes; amazing visual effects; a big chunk of fantasy elements (like magic and dragons); a jaded protagonist in the face of Keanu Reeves (Yay!) and a badass mentor played by Hiroyuki Sanada (Toasty!). That's all I really need.
Does 47 Ronin deserve the praise of samurai fans? Or, is it over the top?
Read some review highlights below!
Synopsis: A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Haruka Abe and others.
While not matching the level of Takashi Miike’s 2010 samurai legend adaptation, 13 Assassins (and never, ever, to be mentioned in the same breath as Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai), 47 Ronin is, ultimately, a harmless piece of action movie fluff married to a period epic. In its awkward but inspired arrangement lies evidence of a director who has good ideas and vision, but is not yet up to the level of blockbuster movie-making that a film like this (with its contrasting elements) demands.
47 Ronin is a serviceable action movie that fails to either capture the emotional essence of the titular tale or bring anything genuinely fresh, invigorating, or memorable to its rendition. Character, relationship, and coherent tone are all sacrificed in service of an attempt to capitalize on an idea that – theoretically – has an appeal across multiple markets. Mildly entertaining and gorgeous to look at, 47 Ronin has little beneath the surface to recommend it. There are a few good fights, though.
Reeves, as can be counted upon, doesn't give much of a performance. I don't inherently dislike the actor, never have, but there are strong and silent types, and then there are just silent types. Looking sullen and less than interested, Reeves' can't do anything with a character who, despite his backstory (he was raised by demons for crying out loud!), has nothing to offer us. Whenever the film attempts to pull the "love story" card in regards to Reeves' Kai and Shibasaki's Mika, the audience is forced to imagine what romance there could possibly be between these two; certainly the movie forgets to gift us with any compelling proof that they're meant to be together.
The characters reveal little about themselves that the viewer can’t already glean from their surface traits. There’s no real explanation for why Lord Kira is such a terror, for example; “because evil” is the film’s answer. “Because evil” sums up all of Mizuki the witch as well. To her credit, Kikuchi is the only actor outside of Sanada who recognizes 47 Ronin for the train wreck it is, and acts accordingly. It’s a grating and over-the-top performance, but it fits in this grating and over-the-top film.