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Ordinary, inoffensive and a bit dull
on 20 January 2015
It’s easy to see why the much delayed and ridiculously expensive Hollywood version of 47 Ronin did so poorly at the box-office. Forget reimagining one of Japan’s most cherished stories as a special effects fantasy – plenty of Japanese versions of the tale have taken big liberties as well and the fantasy elements are relatively sparingly used – it’s the fact that it’s all so mediocre: not terrible, but not good either, stranded in a middle ground where everything is so vanilla and ordinary. You can see where this could have seemed like a good idea several rewrites and reshoots ago, and you can see where much of the money went even though the director does his best to hide it by shooting much of the film in close-up, but nothing really excites. Even the film’s three best action scenes are merely okay, and given that the film hired the best action editor in the English speaking world, Stuart Baird, you can bet that’s because a lot of the footage he had to work with was underwhelming. Despite coming from a commercials background, first-time director Carl Rinsch doesn’t exhibit a particularly arresting visual style, with only a scene in a haunted forest and cave showing a bit more imagination than the often rather perfunctory staging that’s the hallmark of much of the film. He gets good performances from most of his cast, and Keanu Reeves is a good enough stoic hero to suggest that he could have carried a better film (his being a half-breed is never much of a problem in a film that needed a white American face to get greenlit), but the film never truly excites or even seems that interested in its big action setpieces – it even casually throws away one imposing henchman who’s given a huge buildup just at the point it looks like he’s going to face off again with the hero he’s already humiliatingly defeated once.
Perhaps if the studio had interfered less (though from what reached the screen you can understand their concern), perhaps if the original highly-rated script had been kept, perhaps if they’d had a director who knew how to exploit the vast sets and resources at his disposal to their full potential… but as it stands, it’s just ordinary, inoffensive and only barely manages to keep on the right side of being a bit dull. The Japanese do this sort of thing much, much better themselves.
As expected with a flop, extras are thin on the ground: 4 deleted scenes and four brief superficial puff piece featurettes totalling 25 minutes.