Movie Review: 47 Ronin (2013)

Keanu Reeves as Kai in 47 Ronin movie still meme

This fantasy with a white guy version of 47 Ronin has to be the worst among all adaptations of the Japanese classic

I have to admit, the trailer did look pretty cool and epic. Any dude like me would be tempted by action packed trailer featuring samurais, swords and fantasy-like creatures set in a less usual period and environment. And so, despite knowing the early reviews were mostly negative, I paid to watch it and I was utterly disappointed by how  And when I found out that it’s actually an adaptation of a play that’s based on real life, historical events, I was eager to learn more about it.

Just to have something to compare this Hollywood garbage, I picked the 1941 adaptation entitled Genroku Chūshingura (The Fourty-Seven Ronin), which is completely Japanese, black-and-white and runs for a total of 3 hours and 43 minutes (it’s a two-part film). I will have to say that not many would have the patience to sit through such a slow and dead serious old film that’s filled with dialogues and practically no action. It is, however, thorough and faithful to the story – from the attempted killing of Kira, to the questioning, to the planning of Oishi, the emotions of the families involved, true Japanese traditional custom – basically everything and it feels realistic, accurate and sincere. The acting performance is top, top class, and not to mention that scene takes back then are mostly done in one shot with no editing. I guess the only thing that was missing in this production is the expertise of filming action scenes.

This Hollywood 47 Ronin fantasy action adaptation, on the other hand, is heavily altered with unexplained existence of monsters, demons and witches and why they’re doing what they’re doing in the film. What I’m annoyed the most is that Kai, the “half-breed” protagonist played by Keanu Reeves (who, by the way, once again showcases his one-face acting skills for this role), becomes one of the 47 Ronin in the film. Not only did they typically made the only white guy the cool hero whom the princess would fall for instead of any of the other Japanese dudes, the film is also disrespectful to some of the legendary 47 Ronin, and didn’t bother developing any of the characters besides Kai. Even the brave leader of Ronin’s, Oishi, played by another one-face actor Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine), is outrageously portrayed as a clueless leader in some scenes. He’s also written to be responsible for his master’s death by not listening to Kai’s warning. And just for the sake of keeping Reeves handsome, none of the Ronin’s heads are shaved like samurais.

Unused character posters of 47 Ronin
The CGI, I thought could’ve been better with the $170 million of production budget they had. The sequences of every scene is so poorly edited as though they were in a massive rush. Full featured film debutant director Carl Erik Rinsch has proven that he was the wrong choice for such an ambitious production. Without question, the film’s trailer and poster have cheated the audience. The seemingly cool and epic action sequences seen in the trailer are basically almost all there are in the movie itself, and they turned out quite unimpressive. Also, this tattoo-ed guy in the poster appears for a less than a minute and I can’t even remember him holding that any sort of weapon. And the fully armoured guy, much to my surprise, doesn’t get a real fight scene (he only fights Kai briefly at the beginning).

What I would’ve named the film: “Keanu Reeves wa Oishi-ide wa Arimasen” (it means “Keanu Reeves is Not Delicious”)

Least favourite parts in this adaptation of 47 Ronin:

The villain Kira (Tadanobu Asano) throws Oishi into a hole deep into the ground for a year and then pulls him out of it just in time for him to set up a revenge-cum-princess-rescue plan. I can understand how the laws forbids Kira to kill him but why not leave him in the hole for more than a year, or just leave him in there forever? How does Oishi even survive in there for a year anyway? It’s also not logically how he can immediately run and fight like he’s never left. Then there’s also this scene where the demons test the will of Oishi by creating a imagination of his fellow Ronin’s being killed right in front of him, and the challenge is to not draw his sword regardless of whatever he sees. The real Oishi probably wouldn’t have placed his 100% trust on a half-breed’s words and just watch his fellow comrades die in front of him. What is the purpose of this anyway? This so-called test of will only proves that he’d rather gamble on a vague instruction by a half-breed than to help his friends. I find this highly disrespectful to the honourable figure.

Censorship in Malaysia: I don’t recall if there was any sequences that skipped awkwardly, which was strange, actually, ’cause according to Wikipedia, there’s supposedly a “love scene”… unless they didn’t mean love scene as in sex scene?

To watch in 3D? It wouldn’t have made a difference for me. Furthermore, the film was converted to 3D in post-production and no cinemas were offering their better halls to screen it.

Second opinion: My girlfriend said that it isn’t that bad but it lacks of excitement and emotion. She added that she liked the CGI.

Verdict: Watchable Hollywood garbage for Keanu Reeves fans and those who’re ignorant of the classics and the actual events.

Rating: 1.5 / 5

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47 ronin large movie poster malaysia release
Rated: P13
Genre: Fantasy action
Running Time: 118 minutes
Director: Carl Rinsch
Writers: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki

Synopsis: Keanu Reeves makes an explosive return to action-adventure in 47 Ronin. After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and restore honor to their people. Driven from their homes and dispersed across the land, this band of Ronin must seek the help of Kai (Reeves)—a half-breed they once rejected—as they fight their way across a savage world of mythic beasts, shape-shifting witchcraft and wondrous terrors.

As this exiled, enslaved outcast becomes their most deadly weapon, he will transform into the hero who inspires this band of outnumbered rebels to seize eternity.

Malaysia release date: December 19th 2013
Local Distributor: United International Pictures Malaysia
Studio(s): Relativity Media, Bluegrass Films

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  1. Isaac Tan

    I was just wondering if the filming locations were re used from other movies. 1. The hole Oishi was thrown in, and the Japanese house really resembled scenes from "wolverine 2013", while the slave ship reminded me of the ship used in one of the "pirates of the Caribbean movie". I could have sworn it's the exact same ship. Hmm, or it's just me.

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