47 Ronin

Directed By: Carl Erik Rinsch

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, and Hiroyuki Sanada

America hates Keanu Reeves!  There's nothing profoundly surprising about this statement.  While I'll certainly agree that he's not the world's greatest actor, I have to say that we've never given him credit for the gems he's given us.  Just think of Speed, The Devil's Advocate, and of course The Matrix trilogy.  As 47 Ronin hits theaters this Christmas week, I can't help but think that Reeves won't get a fair shake from other critics and bloggers around the country.  With that in mind, I tried to go into 47 Ronin without the jaded mentality that I’m certain most others were carrying.  Having seen it, I must sadly say that Reeves's latest movie still sucks.

Fleeing from his masters in a mysterious forest, young boy Kai (Keanu Reeves) runs into a company of samurai.  Scarred on the top of his head, the half British, half Japanese Kai appears to be a demon child to samurai Kuranosuke Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada).  To his master Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), however, he's just a child.  The samurai take Kai in as their own and raise him, though he is still treated as a half-breed not worthy of becoming a samurai.  In adulthood, he is nothing more than a peasant to Asano and his clan, but he accepts this life.  He loves Asano's daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki), and she loves him.

When Lord Asano hosts Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) as a guest, things quickly go awry.  Beguiled by the witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi), the elder lord attacks Kira in his sleep.  As a punishment, Asano is sentenced to a samurai's death by his own hand.  Asano complies to protect his daughter and his people. After Asano's death, his daughter Mika is granted a year of mourning.  At the conclusion of this year, her line is to be joined with Kira's in order to prevent any attempts at revenge.  Oishi and Asano's remaining warriors are designated as ronin, master-less samurai, and the half-breed Kai is sold into slavery.  They're all forbidden to exact vengeance upon Lord Kira.  Regardless, the treachery of Kira and Mizuki must be answered, and these 47 ronin are the ones to do just that.

If I'm to be honest with myself and the STMR readers, there was never much hope for 47 Ronin.  From the very first trailer, it was abundantly clear to me that this movie wasn't going to be particularly enjoyable.  That being said, I still wanted to give Keanu Reeves the benefit of the doubt going into the film given his solid body of work over the years.  However, the film lacks plot and character development.  Most of the performances are uninteresting.  Worst of all, it doesn't do justice to this exemplary effort that embodies the samurai code of honor.

I understand that Hollywood is trying to make an exciting action film with lots of bells and whistles, but I don't quite understand why there are all these monsters and magical creatures in the movie.  The 47 Ronin took place during the 17th century, so I'm quite certain that no myths have arisen about monsters since that time.  They have nothing to do with the original Japanese story and serve as big ugly distractions.  Throughout the film, director Carl Erik Rinsch gives no explanation as to what these monsters are or how they fit into the story that’s being told on screen.  Rinsch really drops the ball here by not providing more information to his audience.  More importantly, this serves as a potent example of how both the plot and major characters are poorly developed throughout the film. 

The acting is subpar for the most part as well.  Keanu Reeves brings no personality to the screen whatsoever as the half breed Kai.  Though he delivers plenty of solid action sequences, Reeves otherwise gives us a bland, brooding hero about whom we have absolutely no reason to care.  Most of the other supporting actors do nothing but disappoint us on camera as well, especially Tadanobu Asano’s Lord Kira.  The only bright spot in the movie is Rinko Kikuchi.  Fresh from playing a protagonist in Pacific Rim, Kikuchi is a deliciously evil antagonist here in 47 Ronin as the witch Mizuki.  Portraying a beguiling trickster, Kikuchi s both menacing and seductive.

47 Ronin leaves a lot to be desired.  It suffices to say that both the filmmaking and acting are pretty uninspired.  It's also a little too magical for my taste given that I was looking for something a bit more historically accurate.  With all this in mind, it pains me to give this action flick a 0.09% rating.  Have some whiskey sours with this one.  Hopefully, some other filmmaker does justice to this Japanese tale down the road.