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47 Ronin



roninReviewer: Luke Walkley

Director: Carl Rinsch

Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki

Released: 26th December 2013 (UK)

Keanu Reeves’ first wide-release film for five years was always going to draw attention from film-goers. Famed for his role as Neo in The Matrix Trilogy, Reeves has been a rare visitor to our screens in the last half-decade. In fact, since 2008’s ‘The Day The Earth Stood Still’ he has only starred in four films, none of which have been released in UK cinemas.

‘47 Ronin’ is based on a traditional Japanese story of 47 Samurai, who after their master is killed, become Ronin (Samurai without masters) and seek revenge on the rival Lord Kira and Witch responsible for his death. The film focuses on Kai (Reeves) A half-breed, apparently raised by demons whose love for the murdered Lord Asano’s daughter Mika (Shibasaki) forces him to help the Samurai-turned-Ronin to win back their honour by avenging Lord Asano and killing Lord Kira and his Witch, despite the Shogun forbidding any act of retaliation.

From the offset the film struggles to find its feet, never deciding on if it’s just a simple tale of honour or one that has blockbuster ambitions. Opening in both Japan and the US/UK seems to have caused major conflict in which way to head.

Visually there is nothing wrong with 47 Ronin, beautiful set-pieces and costumes, some creative cinematography and fantastic effects culminate in a very pretty film. However, they really are just the shiny veneer for the mediocre narrative. The entire film is made irrelevant in the final 15 minutes due to the power that Kai possesses due to his upbringing, yet only really uses twice throughout the action.

The action sequences, where a film like this should excel, are far too short, with the exception of the penultimate battle. Again, Kai’s power could have won the battle in the first ten minutes and that is perhaps the most glaringly obvious flaw in ‘47 Ronin’ and one which is really unforgiveable.

There is very minimal character connection with the audience, leaving the feeling that perhaps the film would have been better had it had a constant narration, rather than just the voice-over at the beginning used to introduce everyone. By this, I mean a narration in the style similar to that in ‘300’, where a storyteller or similar helps the story to move along at a decent pace. Unlike here, where the pacing issues and unnecessary elongation of the story cause the audience to lose interest in the middle third.

Overall the film is saved in part by the story upon which it is based and the visuals. Reeves performance is nothing spectacular, due mainly to a lack of constant screen-time. The supporting cast offers the same efficient, yet far from spectacular performances, with no real stand-outs. It’s a shame as this really could have been Reeves big-boot back into big-time, but that will now have to wait until ‘Passengers’

Enjoyable in parts, but unfortunately just not consistent enough – 47 Ronin is a disappointment for anyone hoping for a Keanu Reeve-ival.

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