’47 Ronin’ is described as Japan’s “national legend”; its defining tale highlights the country's rich and devout code of honour. Steeped in history and traditions which still resonate today, first-time director Carl Rinsch has added his own flare to bring the Samurai back to life.
Set among ancient mythical islands of 18th century Japan that breed demons and magic. When the Samurai of Lord Asano are banished and turned Ronin following his death, the 47 warriors including their leader Ôishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) and demon half-breed Kai (Keanu Reeves) seek vengeance upon Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and the witch (Rinko Kikuchi) whose treachery caused their banishment and brought dishonour to their homeland. Enduring physical and psychological trials over the course of their mission, a forbidden love story between the Princess Mika (Ko Shibasaki) and Kai prevails through the destruction.
Despite its supernatural flourish, ’47 Ronin’ isn’t as stupid as it looks. It’s fairly faithful to the original legend, with just a witch and an obligatory love story to help wash it down. But it is the film’s supernatural CG and 3D elements that relegate its Romeo and Juliet story and Bushidõ to the background. This film is so much and so little at the same time. Never really committing to a single story or element, everything ends up being just a bit half-assed. ’47 Ronin’ had the opportunity to be epic, especially given its $175m budget (perspective: ‘Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring’ had $93m) and leave an enduring legacy, but it all just feels muddled and weightless.
Shot beautifully with a rich palate and exquisite landscapes, the film’s prettiness can’t make up for everything that it’s not.