“47 Ronin”—Starring Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada and Kou Shibasaki
7 out of 10
By Cameron M. Bray ’16
Swords clash and battles rage as 47 ex-samurai, or “ronin”, fight to regain their honor in an exciting bit of action.
Enter “47 Ronin” by Universal Studios.
The story begins with Kai–the orphaned son of a British sailor and a Japanese farm girl–growing up alongside Mika, the daughter of Lord Asano whom Kai lives under.
Eventually, Kai becomes an adult, living in shack outside the castle, and being deemed a “half-breed” by the samurai.
During a tournament, Lord Kira and the witch Mizuki trick Lord Asano, the master of the samurai, into inadvertently committing several grave acts of dishonor.
As a result, the shogun forces Lord Asano to commit seppuku, which is ritual suicide by disembowlment, in order to retain the honor of his house.
In addition, Kai is sold into slavery and the samurai become ronin–masterless samurai who have failed their lord.
Kai, Oishe, and the other samurai have to team up to defeat Lord Kira and Mizuki, so they can avenge their fallen lord.
The cool thing is that it is based on a true story, except for the elements drawn from Japanese myth and lore.
“47 Ronin” is, at its heart, an action movie.
Its many action scenes are fast paced, exciting and the frosting on the cake.
I quickly got drawn in and these scenes flew by in whirlwinds of excitement.
However, the slow dramatic scenes drew me out of the movie and brought the movie’s fast pace to a halt.
These scenes not only fail to be dramatic or interesting, but they also make the pacing feel schizophrenic and inconsistent.
“47 Ronin” starts off nicely in the beginning; the pacing ramps smoothly upward as the stakes are raised.
But then around the second act, the movie wavers back and forth from exciting, fun action to gritty, unsuccessful drama.
This creates an inconsistent tone that looms over the rest of the movie, like dark rain clouds over an otherwise perfect day.
In other words, the action and drama in “47 Ronin” mix together as well as a freshwater fish in the Dead Sea.
My second problem is the characters.
To clarify, it isn’t that I don’t like the characters. I do, they are well-rounded and well-characterized.
My problem is that none of the characters have an arc.
Let me explain: Kai starts out humble, admirable and heroic, pretty much ending the movie that way.
In other words, he does not change.
Meanwhile, the samurai/ronin despise Kai for being a half-breed, but end the movie loving and respecting for his fighting skills, bravery and devotion to Lord Asano.
Their arc, basically, is them overcoming their xenophobia and accepting Kai for who he his.
Still, the environments are pretty and catch the eye.
All of them are nicely variegated; each set-piece feels artistically unique from the last.
As a whole, “47 Ronin” is a good-looking, pulse-pounding action movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat during the first viewing.
However, “47 Ronin” is easily forgettable.
Because of its weak drama and lack of character development, it gets a 7 out of 10.