Cast Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Haneda, Rinko Kikuch, (see extensive cast list on IMDB)
Before seeing a movie I try very hard not to read reviews, good or negative, they can taint one’s opinion without giving a flick a fair chance. I came into seeing 47 Ronin having heard only a few grumblings, and a couple of headlines saying the film was headed for box office trouble. Determined to give this Samurai story starring Keanu Reeves an honest review, I am happy that I succeeded going in with a clear head.
47 Ronin is not the box office travesty that the other reviewers have painted it (I read a few post viewing), it is honestly true to the Supernatural Samurai genre. Based on a true story, the writer brings in elements of the fantastic; with witches, demons and mythical beasts, all lending to the fantasy and action of the movie. Elevating the exploits of the Samurai to legendary status.
47 Ronin is the story of Kai, a half breed boy, condemned by most as a demon child, but taken in by the beloved Lord Asano, played by Min Tanaka. Asano raises Kai (Reeves), alongside his daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki), against the advice of his Samurai, who look upon Kai with resentment and suspicion. When Asano is killed through sorcery and treachery by the evil Shogun, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch, the Samurai turned Ronin join forces with Kai to seek vengeance for the dishonor of their master.
There are a few flaws, though the story is sound, like an old house with solid bones. The issues lay in a few poor directing choices, which is to be expected from a Director as green as Rinsch, and some dubious CGI work. The set design is stunning, truly beautiful scenery. Where the work failed was in the creature animation (excluding that of the witch, which was great), coming off as a bit cartoonish, in this Japanese style high fantasy epic.
Even so, the poor execution here lends to the genre, and doesn’t truly hurt the over all story. Keanu Reeves’ lack of a Japanese accent is a little jarring at first, next to the near complete Japanese cast, though if you take in account his half breed role, it too can be forgiven. A few complained that the characters of 47 Ronin lacked depth, but the characters are like those of most Samurai stories, Spaghetti Westerns and Fairy Tales, you are either good or evil, no shades of gray when it comes to honor.
If you go into a drama expecting a comedy, you are sure to be disappointed. I think that’s the case with 47 Ronin, not enough movie goers knew the genre this movie pays homage to going in. Carl Rinsch’s first attempt to bring Japanese Supernatural Samarai fantasy to the American audience may have hit with a whimper, but this action fantasy falls in line with films like the Detective Dee series and Painted Skin: The Resurrection, and does not deserve the bad wrap it’s getting. These movies are a modern day Godzilla vs. Mothra, they are not meant to be high art, they are meant to be fun. 47 Ronin is a fun movie.