47 Ronin (2 stars)

47 Ronin

Keanu Reeves stars in this shambolic and derivative samurai adventure

First-time director Carl Rinsch’s mega-budget take on one of Japan’s most enduring legends feels like a folly that should never have been indulged. 47 Ronin is a messy and uninvolving tale of revenge that no amount of embellishment can save. If anything, it only makes matters worse.

In stripped back, original form, the tale of the 47 ronin involves a group of samurai who, two years after their master is disgraced and forced to commit suicide and they are stripped of their status, reunite to take revenge before taking their own lives according to Japanese custom. Hollywood’s re-imagined version finds Keanu Reeves thrown into the mix as a half-breed named Kai who watches as events unfold and helps with their revenge. There’s also a fantasy element involving witches and dragons, as well as a forbidden romance involving Kai.

Yet no matter how much spectacle Rinsch throws at the screen, there’s no escaping the feeling that this is a complete shambles. The film lacks any emotional investment, especially bad given the themes of honour, nobility and redemption inherent in the legend, while the fantasy elements struggle to impress or generate much excitement.

Worse, 47 Ronin feels derivative of countless other movies, from Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (remade as John SturgesThe Magnificent Seven) to the Tom Cruise-starring Last Samurai or even HBO’s Game of Thrones, minus any of their invention.

Reeves even feels like a passenger in his own star vehicle, although in fairness, none of the cast are given anything to work with given the lacklustre nature of Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini’s script.

In Japan, the original tale continues to be celebrated to this day, where a festival is held each December. Rinsch’s film will hold no such legacy and deserves to be quickly forgotten, if it’s even seen at all.

47 Ronin - Official Trailer (HD) Keanu Reeves

47 Ronin

  • 2 stars
  • 2013
  • US
  • Directed by: Carl Rinsch
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki
  • UK release: 26 December 2013

Reeves plays a samurai (natch) who hooks up with a group to avenge the killing of their master in this fictional tale loosely based on real events.


1. Terry Peters7 Jan 2014, 1:44am Report

I enjoyed the film. I feel that it shared some elements of Japanese history and culture that are not widely known. The film was based during a time in which a feudal system was in place and people fought to keep land and sustain agricultural and business operations. Japan is a country steeped in tradition, no matter how hard it is for outsiders to accept.

From this perspective I found the story insightful and was intrigued by the mystical elements. I feel that Keanu Reeves gave a star performance and that it gave people from other countries an opportunity to see more of some Japanese movie stars.

2. Freeda Artist7 Jan 2014, 1:30pm Report

This movie was great. I have no idea why so many people want to give it a bad review. The same bad review was done for John Carter and After Earth, both, really good films. I have already watched John Carter at least 3 times. And I know I will see it again. 47 Ronin is equally good. Since there is nothing fundamentally wrong with this film, all criticisms are nit picking and have no bases in truth. The film is well acted, seamless is integrating the fantasy with the history, good special effects which rival any other film currently on the market. And Terry Peters makes great points too. I am glad to learn a bit about Japanese culture and see some Japanese actors in a Hollywood produced movie.

3. T. Styan9 Jan 2014, 4:45pm Report

I agree with the above reviewers, it was an insight into Japanese culture and thought provoking. It was a very enjoyable film.

If anybody out there can think for themselves and not rely on a biased critic such as Rob Carnevale, who appears to only give in the majority the higher ratings to Science Fiction Films, such as Elysium. I say don't be a sheep and listen to the critics, stand up and make a difference and go and see it for yourselves - make your own decision!

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