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47 Ronin (3D)


Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Neil Fingleton, Togo Igawa, Rick Genest, Masayoshi Haneda, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada, Shu Nakajima, Masayuki Deai, Yorick van Wageningen, Gedde Watanabe, Natsuki Kunimoto

Director: Carl Rinsch

Keanu Reeves’ last major movie appearance was in the barely adequate reboot of the Robert Wise classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Now he returns to add (hopefully) some Hollywood star appeal to a mélange of fantasy and samurai action whose cast is otherwise entirely Japanese. Which makes some sense since the Japanese folktale on which Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini’s screenplay is based has already been filmed six times, in 1941, 1958, 1962, 1978, 1994 and 2010.

This is its first Hollywood reworking.

This blend of storyline hokum, fantastic elements which include a shape-shifting witch that changes from cloth to giant-sized hydra-style monster and action and spectacle ad lib is Hollywood’s first crack at the legend of the vengeance-seeking 47 samurai warriors.

The setting, admirably filmed in effective 3D by John Mathieson, is early 18th century Japan where half-breed Reeves (“My Lord, he is a demon!”) joins the eponymous leaderless Ronin warriors who once rejected him, to fight their way across a strange monster-ridden landscape to seek vengeance and restore honour to their people…

Director Carl Rinsch attacks his material with more style and zest than with holding narrative, staging splendid fight sequences and creating eye-catching landscapes against which to stage the drama. The opening narrative is enough to serve as an explanation of what follows although, to be honest, ’47 Ronin’ carries more impact on the eyes than on the brain. The monsters are suitably monstrous, although the samurai Reeves saves by slaying a huge stag-like creature resents his interference, claiming that it is better to be killed by a beast than saved by a half-breed.

Bearded and mostly inscrutable, Reeves, when not slicing and dicing his way through the villains, is hardly called to do much in the way of acting while the unfamiliarity of his Japanese costars gives their performances a tad more force. Not that it really matters – acting is hardly the name of the game here.

Alan Frank

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 27 Dec 2013