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4.1 out of 5 stars
47 Ronin [DVD] [2013] [2014]
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
’47 Ronin’ is actually based on an old Japanese historical event when 47 samurai avenged the death and disgrace of their master, even if it marked them as ‘criminals.’ This tale is very well known and documented in Japan and people still visit the graves of the deceased in order to remember their commitment to their cause.

It’s been made into a film at least six times before, but this is the most ‘Hollywood’ version to date. For a start, we have Keanu Reeves as the lead character and it’s fair to say that no westerners took part in the actual event. Therefore, it’s safe to say that many liberties have been taken in this retelling. This point is hammered home by the inclusion of various mythological creatures our valiant exiled samurai encounter. And, I’m just guessing, but I’m pretty sure there weren’t any dragon-witches or giant ogres in Japan back then.

So, don’t expect a faithful re-telling of the historical event. But, do expect entertainment. I don’t know why, but ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ kept going through my mind while I was watching this. The whole affair sort of reminded me of Captain Jack Sparrow in the Far East. Every so often there’s a chase scene or a monster to fight and there are plenty of CGI backdrops for us to pretend are real. Perhaps the one thing that isn’t really included is an awful lot of fight scenes. I expected more ‘martial arts’ from a film about samurai, but there’s only a couple of swordplay scenes included.

All in all, it’s not a bad adventure film, but it’s kind of hard to think who its primary audience is. Like I said, it doesn’t have enough fights to be a martial arts film. It’s not ‘fun for all the family’ like Pirates of the Caribbean, so it’s more serious. If you like supernatural action/adventure movies which have had all the major gore and adult-stuff edited out, then you might like this. Keanu Reeves is ‘the star,’ but it’s the supporting Japanese cast that really hold it together.

I didn’t regret watching it, but I doubt I’d ever watch it again. I’ve got a hundred better action adventure films already in my collection.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Kai (Keanu Reeves) is found in a river near Ako. He is called a half breed and is rumored to be a shape shifter. He is treated with respect by his adopted father Lord Asano(Min Tanaka) and beloved by his daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki). He is despised by everyone else in this new middle earth tale because TV hasn't been invented and no one has seen "The Matrix." The film is loosely adopted from a true story from the early 1700's one that is often embellished. This one was embellished with dragons, shape shifters, witches, and demons.

Through a series of events the Ako Samurai are stripped of their title and banished, taking on the title of Ronin. Mika is to marry the evil Kira, controlled by a witch as the film turns into "Kill Kira." While history tells us the rest, I won't plot spoil it for you. It isn't how I would have wrote it.

Keanu Reeves barely speaks in this film. He bows his head a lot and stays silent even though he is half Englishman.

This is a good film if one views it as a middle earth fantasy companion and not as a history.
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73 of 84 people found the following review helpful
***This review is for the film only***

I had heard quite a lot of mixed comments about this film, some people thought it was the film of the year, while some really disliked it, but I do like Keanu Reeves so I thought I'd give it go anyway. I'm glad that I did.

Plot: It's about a group of proud Samurai who's master is killed and dishonoured and their status is reduced to Ronin. Only for them to rise up and seek revenge against the evil ruler and his magical witch, who are responsible

This film was panned by critics and became a huge box office flop but I really can't understand why. It's high adrenaline, action packed, exciting and has some absolutely mind blowing special effects. Ok Keanu Reeves does look a little out of place in a movie full of Japanese actors, playing out a truly Japanese story, but that is easily got past. There is quite a lot of Japanese language and subtitles in the film but most of it is in English so it's not too hard to follow.

The camera work and sound in this movie are what makes it really stand out, the unknown director really did a sterling job here and really immerses you into the magical world of the Ronin.
The acting for the most part is very good too and you really do develop a kind of kinship with some of the characters, which makes you really root for them and genuinely care about their fate.

All in all 47 Ronin is a fun, exciting, way to spend a couple of hours, it's visually stunning to look at and after a slowish start, the action and fantasy never lets up. Without giving too much away, it does leave the door open for a sequel but alas, due to its poor box office performance I doubt that we will ever see one.

8/10 Very good fantasy movie, harshly panned by the critics
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 18 January 2015
Not a bad film loosely based upon a Japanese classic its actually quite entertaining. The special effects are quite good but just dont really capture the Japanese myth theme that the film was going for, as a few people have mentioned it comes across as a bit too watered down for western consumption which I dont think they needed to do.

Overall a decent fantasy film, a little disappointing at then end and I would have liked a bit more depth to characters, considering the length of the film there is very little of that. Otherwise pretty good.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2014
From the dodgy live-action comic book prologue to the patience-sapping epilogue, both boasting cheesy voiceover, Keanu Reeves' latest supposed comeback vehicle veers like an expensive car taken for a drive but with nowhere to go. It crashed and burned at the box office for obvious reasons: Like John Carter before it, 47 Ronin is without identity and thus without an audience.

Reeves plays Kai, a "half-breed" born into feudal Japanese society. The natives are never shy of reminding Kai of his impure blood, though the fact that they choose to twist their vocal chords around the English language to do so kind of undermines their argument. This is a movie for people who actually appreciate being warned at the cinema counter that a film has subtitles. Don't worry, no such risk here.

Anyway, Kai is taken in by the Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), and raised to be a brooding loner, lovesick for Asano's daughter (Kou Shibasaki), Mika. However, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) also fancies Mika. With the help of wonky-eyed witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi), Kira devises a plot to slay Lord Asano, kidnap his daughter, and rebrand Asano's men as Ronin - dishonoured samurais without masters. Out in the wild, the Ronin, led by the headstrong Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), must overcome their prejudices and join forces with Kai, in order to rescue the damsel in distress.

The costumes and production design are dazzling, deserving of that extra star. The crew here have created a sumptuous world, rich in detail. Not that we get to savour it. Like David Lean working as first assistant to Brett Ratner, never has a film combined the sublime and the ridiculously cheap-looking. On top of that, it's as if the film has been edited by production committee. The pacing is lousy.

First-time director Carl Rinsch elicits poor performances from everyone concerned. This is largely because 99.9% of the cast are speaking a foreign language, and also because the script stinks: when characters aren't explicitly explaining the meaning of seppuku, or delivering limp threats ("I'm not afraid of you." / "You should be!"), they're promising love that'll last a thousand lifetimes, like there'd been a cast screening of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the night before. Difference is, Ang Lee made me believe it.

Who is this film for? Hard to say. Its bloodlessness will alienate Takashi Miike fans. The pointless fantasy aspects and lack of humour will bore Kurosawa classicists. It goes for the derring-do of Hook, except combined with the washed-out palette of Ridley Scott's dour Robin Hood revamp. John Carter lacked a lot, but at least it had a sense of fun. This movie, based on a grim "true story" (except for the flying worms and horned mega-fauna, presumably) takes 70 minutes to find its first stab at a joke, and even then it's about as funny as... well, mass ritual suicide. Avoid.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 May 2014
In feudal Japan, when their Lord is bewitched & commits a crime, he is forced to perform sepppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) as punishment. Afterwards his loyal Samauri warriors are stripped of their titles, proclaimed Ronin (masterless Samurai) & banished from their province forbidden to return or face death. But knowing of the treachery committed upon their Lord, they set out to revenge his death & reclaim his honor.

As with Hollywood films that are based on true stories, we usually give them the benefit of the doubt while taking it with a pinch of salt as well. The core story of the 47 Ronin was very engrossing, and they did flesh things out for Western audiences with a few sub plots, consisting of a love story, an outsider trying to earn respect & said outsider having magical powers. In the execution it gives us plenty of time to drink in the culture & visual beauty of feudal Japan which it achieves to aplomb, while they're maybe too much talking for some, it periodically throws in various action scenes to keep you sated. Some are traditional Eastern sword fights, while the CGI laden Japanese mythology & more Western influences from other Hollywood films e.g Pirates of the Caribbean etc.. are nice embellishments/distractions & obviously done to open the film up to appeal to a wider audience.

The acting was pretty good all round, Keanu Reeves (The Matrix) puts in a decent performance in a palatable co-lead role as the solemn British/Japanese 'half breed' Kai. Alongside him are a host of Japanese actors that maintain the traditional vibe of the film as they take turns together & apart in furthering parts of the story. The stand out's IMO being Hiroyuki Sanada (The Twilight Samurai) as Oishi the courageous leader of the 47 & Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) as the evil witch. The latter stole Tadanobu Asano's (Ichi The Killer) thunder as the devious Lord Kira, relegated to a lot of smirking as a result. And in a Captain Phillips fashion, newcomer Takato Yonemoto was welcome brief comedy relief in a a very sombre feeling movie as the rotund Ronin, Basho.

In conclusion, 47 Ronin was an enjoyable mixture of Western film making & an introductory experience to Japanese Feudal culture & mythology. Contains violence & mature themes. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2015
Ordered three movies was most excited by this one, and it was ok. The film is nicely filmed special effects could have been much better story line holds your attention, if you can pick this up in the bargain bin its ok otherwise don't bother
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on 18 July 2015
Quick Summary

It could have been a great film! It could have knocked watchers off their seats and made them pay attention. It could have been… but it is not.

Disappointments

1) Language
Dare I say it that I am one of those movie enthusiasts who like to see a Japanese film with Japanese characters (and actors) speaking Japanese, even if it means scrolling rapidly through the subtitles in between scoops of whatever I am having for dinner! I rapidly realised that this was not such a film and it was my first disappointment. Imaging your first language is English and you having to act in a different language (e.g. Russian or Swahili) no matter how great an actor you are you will not be as comfortable in acting as you would be in your mother tongue! The Japanese language is a dramatic language that allows for a vast amount of expressions and emotions even when spoken softly.

2) Lack of research into the culture of the period the film is based on.

My second disappointment is that despite the fact that this is supposed to be referring to a historic (real not mythical) event (link - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forty-seven_Ronin) and of course knowing that it will be losely based on that event and time, the director Carl Erik Rinsch and producers really paid no attention to the Japanese culture and mannerism of that time at all! The daughter of a Daimyo (war lord) would never show her emotions in public (i.e her running to stop the “spoiler alert” punishment of the “half breed”) no matter what the circumstances were, how much more when considering the necessary court etiquette at that time! It was inherent in their daily routine! The costumes were not authentic and seem to be a mix of some influences of losely based asian design, arabic and modern western attire.. therefore emphasising too much on contemporary westernised depiction of asian style and no substance whatsoever!

These are the two main disappointments about this film and I rather not go on about minor disappointments but focus on the positives…

Positives!!!
In order to really enjoy this film (especially if you love watching Japanese films), just imagine that this is a film based on a Manga series or even imagine that this is a Manga film/animation! Most rules are thrown away when it comes to Manga and bearing that in mind this is an "OK" film.

There is a nice mix of demon mythology, witches, magic, action and romance! I personally would have like to see more demon action and story intertwined with the main storyline and how demons ultimately influenced the outcome of the film. The typical plots you see in epic Mangas for teenagers. The story line was a bit slow and monotonous (typical of western films of Japan… I know another negative). It lacked wasabi (lots of hot action) soy source (twists in the story) and dose of sushi (good old fashioned edge of the seat cliff hangers!).

To conclude, it could have been a great film! It could have knocked watchers off their seats and made them pay attention. It could have been… but it is not. Maybe a good film for young teenagers... who have nothing to do during their summer vacation.
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on 16 July 2014
"47 Ronin" is a retelling of a famous Japanese legend which has been updated and specifically adapted for Western audiences. This is especially true in the way it adds in the Keanu Reeves character to the story, a supposedly half American, half Japanese warrior with a mysterious background. I can only imagine that the writers thought that they needed a European character to make the story more sympathetic to Western audiences, but Keanu Reeves does not look any more Japanese than Sean Connery did in "You Only Live Twice".

Despite these changes though the film looks spectacular, especially on Blu Ray, with a very stylized exaggerated version of medieval Japan. The effects and the cinematography are all excellent, and there is some effort made to make the customs and mannerisms of Japan come to life. Fans of films like "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" will appreciate the look and feel of this movie, if nothing else.

The main problem with "47 Ronin" is that it fails to draw you into the story or make you care enough about the characters. Most of the ronin are anonymous supporting cast who live and die without making any impression. For those characters who are named as individuals there is nothing to make you sympathetic about their fate. The director can do action, but seems unable to convincingly show human relationships and emotions. In fact the most colourful and likeable character I found was the witch, played by Rinko Kikuchi, who is supposed to be the villain of the piece!

Despite a very good start "47 Ronin" fails to develop into anything very remarkable. Without caring about the characters the ending is a real anti-climax and one which makes it soon forgettable. Its a shame as the movie has a lot of potential but it fails to deliver on the initial build up and while enjoyable in places is far from being a classic of the genre.
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