Keanu Reeves is one of those actors that you either love him or hate him. Ever since his hit turn with the Matrix trilogy he has seemingly become highly interested in the martial arts genre. Most recently he made his directorial debut with the martial arts flick Man of Tai Chi, but that’s not his only foray into the genre. His latest film 47 Ronin has been long in development and has been delayed for quite some time, but has finally unleashed its samurai fury on the world, but was it worth the wait?
47 Ronin follows 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people after a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of a half-breed they once rejected will transform into the hero who inspires this band of outnumbered rebels to seize eternity as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors. This movie has been getting a bad rap since its release and while it does have numerous issues, it still manages to work for what it is. The legend of the 47 Ronin is pretty cool and didn’t necessarily need the supernatural twist, but since they opted to go that direction they needed a bit more thought used to bring that to this world. The supernatural elements are cool with the majority of the effects working pretty well, but they are inconsistent with the execution. One moment they are all hunting down a mystical creature with no question, but then later when the thought of supernatural elements are brought a character acts as if he doesn’t believe in it. They addition of the half breed to the legend was unnecessary and there is never any real explanation of him and is background. There is a little something thrown together but just doesn’t offer enough to explain the American aspect surrounded with the Japanese culture. The rest of the cast do a great job including Rinko Kikuchi, but she seemed to be acting in a different movie. She is playing it up and having some fun, but her cartoon like demeanor doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the characters. She cleverly played the part showing that her witch character was not confined to the Japanese culture, but her over the top performance often becomes a bit distracting.
Despite being an America production it still maintains the beautiful epic visuals of the Japanese period films. The special effects all work pretty well even if they aren’t always necessary. One of the biggest disappointments comes from the lack of a character that was highly promoted. In the trailers and even a character poster there is a tattooed pirate who looks bad ass, but makes one forgettable appearance in the film and does nothing. There is a bad ass armored samurai who is just kicking the ass of everything who makes up for it somewhat. The film is not the action packed film some might be expecting, but instead plays like most other Asian epics of its kind telling the story, but still filling it with some good action pieces. There are times where it does too many quick cuts making it hard to see what is going on, but for the most part still delivers the samurai action. Most Americans do not like having to read their films, so is probably the reason this film was done completely in English as opposed to Japanese that it should have been in.
This film is far from perfect and clearly has some issues, but too be honest it is still entertaining. It’s going to be one of those that people will either like or not with no grey area to work with. This isn’t the film of the 47 Ronin that should have been made, but still sports just enough action and visual fun to entertain, but just enough problems that it will divide audiences. If you step away, lower expectations and just enjoy it for the popcorn flick it is instead of the epic legend you were hoping for then you might have a good time.