47 RoninWednesday 25 Dec 2013
Director: Carl Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi
Duration: 119 minutes
Keanu Reeves heads up the cast in this heavily stylized 3D-fantasy adventure loosely based on the Japanese legend of the Forty Seven Ronin, a group of samurai who avenge the death of their master.
Although it was inspired by this renowned Japanese tale, 47 Ronin takes many liberties in the re-telling, bringing in Reeves to play a fictional character, and adding in scores of fantasy elements to liven up the film.
Reeves plays outsider Kai, an orphan who was raised and trained to fight by supernatural demons, before fleeing their kind and finding safety in the home of Lord Asano, where he ends up falling in love with his daughter Mika (Kô Shibasaki).
Although the Lord's samurai despise him for being a "half-breed", Kai joins them on their mission to avenge the untimely death of their master, and overcome the treacherous Lord Kira and his partner, an evil witch, before they take over rule of the whole kingdom. The epic voyage sees them come up against giants, dragons and demon monks as they vow to seek vengeance and restore honour to their people.
The story of the 47 Ronin is undoubtedly an interesting premise, but director Carl Rinsch has slightly lost the run of himself in this inflated, overly CGI-ed reboot. A lack of identity seems to be the film's main flaw and it ultimately kills the momentum.
Reeves isn't given much to work with as Kai, and spends most of the film bowing respectfully with his eyes cast downwards. However, Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim, Babel) is entrancing as the Witch, a shape-shifting creature who is hell-bent on bringing Kira to power.
There are some good action set-pieces, but the inflated two-hour running time ultimately lets down Carl Rinsch's big-screen take on the Japanese tale. Exposition is sluggish at times and Rinsch unnecessarily spells out each plot development, leaving little to the audience's imagination.
You can't help but think that a simpler approach concentrating on what the samurai are known for - sword fighting - might have ensured a better outcome.