Sunday, December 22, 2013

47 Ronin

Year: 2013
Director: Carl Rinsch
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Ko Shibasaki, Jin Akanishi

Plot: A group of 47 masterless samurai aka ronin band together to seek vengeance against a ruthless shogun for their master's death.

Review: Multiple delayed releases usually means a film is in trouble, that it has problems that will affect its audience reception. 47 Ronin is one such film, finally seeing the light of day after being held back a few times. After seeing it, I can say that it's better than I expected.

While it is by no means a perfect film (more on that later), it is visually astounding and culturally accurate. First time director Carl Rinsch directs this Hollywood adaptation of the well known Japanese story Chushingura, and does quite a decent job overall. The technical aspects of the film, such as visual effects, cinematography, set design and costumes are all excellent. I particularly loved the vibrant colours used throughout the film, that made it easy for the audience to identify the characters from each other. Rinsch also did a good job on the action sequences, some involving CGI, some just being straight up sword fights, though my minor complaint would be most of the fights not lasting long enough.

The subject matter is solid enough. A group of samurai are dishonored after their master is sentenced to commit seppuku (honorable suicide) for a shameful act, which was caused by a rival lord's witch. Their leader Oishi vows to seek revenge for his master's wrongful death and collects his comrades for one final assault against the lord, with the help of a "half-breed" man named Kai, whom they used to look down on in the past, but now rely on because of his "special" powers.

The acting quality of the cast is more or less decent. Hiroyuki Sanada as usual scores the most points as Oishi, having played this type of role many times before. Rinko Kikuchi comes a close second as the witch, clearly relishing her role and hamming up her performance, which works somewhat even though some of her lines are kinda cheesy. Tadanobu Asano (Battleship and the Thor films) is rather miscast however as rival lord Kira, who is outshone by Kikuchi and not given much to do. Keanu Reeves is decent enough as Kai, his limited acting range and brooding personality matching his character's traits somewhat.

Although the film is visually striking and coherent overall, it could use some tighter editing here and there, as it tends to drag whenever something crucial isn't going on. Some of the dialogue needs polishing too, especially those involving Ko Shibasaki's character Mika, Kai's love interest. I would also have preferred the final action sequence being longer and more epic, but that's just me. Oh, and some of you might have an issue with everyone in this film speaking English when they're in Japan, but I didn't have a problem with it, as it's not the first time it's happened (Valkyrie, anyone?).  

47 Ronin is not as memorable as say, The Last Samurai, but it's solid entertainment overall despite its rather obvious flaws. (3.5/5) 

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