47 Ronin is the Matrix in kimonos

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      Starring Keanu Reeves and Rinko Kikuchi. Rated PG.

      The tale of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) who executed a complex multiyear plan to assassinate Kira, enemy of their late master Ako, has been commemorated in Japanese art and literature since the actual event of the early 1700s. The latest version of the Ako vendetta is an English-language special-effects epic that seems to have taken inspiration, in its painterly visual stylization and fablelike tone, from the film version of Frank Miller’s 300.

      Perhaps to avoid charges of yellowface, the producers have cast Japanese performers for all but the central role. Keanu Reeves plays Kai, an enigmatic half-white outcast with possible magical powers. This one change transforms a ballad about extreme group loyalty into a reprise of Neo vs. the Agent Smiths, if the Agent Smiths were wearing kimonos. The long-term-con aspect of the tale is jettisoned, replaced by a series of encounters with computer-generated monsters controlled by a shape-shifting floating witch (fetching Rinko Kikuchi, from Pacific Rim).

      The ideal companion piece to this film would be a retelling of the Alamo with an American cast speaking Japanese, in which Davy Crockett and Col. Bowie play second fiddle to a half-Japanese passerby with a talking magical gun with which to battle the Mexican general, a sexy alien from the future.

      I would certainly watch that movie, which is no wackier than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, a film that I love. To repurpose hallowed national myth for the sake of insight or even wackiness is the right of any artist. But while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is both campy and thrilling, 47 Ronin is unfailingly serious and dark, therefore turgid and tiresome. The result is a series of still lifes of woodcut Orientalia relieved too infrequently by 3-D fireballs.




      Dec 31, 2013 at 12:14pm

      Keanu Reeves defines himself as "multi racial".
      He is not a white guy playing a "half white".

      Personally i prefer the term racially diverse.
      Anyways, will be giving this film a miss.

      Nosoup Foyoo

      Dec 31, 2013 at 1:41pm

      Tom Cruise now Keanu taking a turn acting as a master swordsman..

      Of Course

      Dec 31, 2013 at 2:29pm

      There are no Japanese actors capable of playing a lead role, are there, Hollywood?


      Ron Y

      Dec 31, 2013 at 10:20pm

      I will say that the film is so extremely strange in its conception, casting, and revisionism that if I could give out stars, it would get an extra star for sheer oddness. Oddness is its own reward in many cases. I just wish I actually liked this movie more.

      Freeda B.

      Jan 1, 2014 at 5:49am

      This movies is not even close to as bad as everyone makes it out to be. In fact, it is Really good. I was expecting a crappy film from all of the reviews I read. I am glad I decided to follow my instinct. All the criticisms seem like some kind of witch hunt.


      Jan 1, 2014 at 10:59am

      '47 Ronin is unfailingly serious and dark, therefore turgid and tiresome.'. Speak for yourself, mister. I happen to like serious and dark.

      As for that 'ideal companion for this movie'? It's been done already under the title Cowboys and Aliens. And guess what? It's produced by Universal ;)

      A. MacInnis

      Jan 1, 2014 at 11:41pm

      I'm pleased to see someone else enjoyed Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. I was kind of embarrassed that I enjoyed it so much. Wanted, by the same director - Night Watch's Timur Bekmambetov - is quite fun, too, in a shamelessly shallow, energetic, guilty-plesaure kinda way.

      Will also be giving 47 Ronin a miss, tho'. It's just cheap and lazy, for Hollywood to mutilate a revered story from another culture in this way... I hope it ain't a hit in Japan!

      Ron Y

      Jan 2, 2014 at 11:59am


      I agree, critics are just people with opinions and those opinions can be based on nothing, sure.

      In this case, I will not so much defend my opinion as point out that I love cheesy action movies, spectacle for its own sake, and bugnut decision making that somehow emerges through the corporate homogenization process. I really wanted to like 47 Ronin because it meets those criteria.

      @A MacInnes

      The thing with AL:VH is that we know Lincoln's life well enough that the radical alterations that make it into an action thriller are obvious; while some people find them sacrilege, I found them to be cleverly entertaining both from a plot perspective and as a sort of meta-commentary about historical revisionism, about the loss of the most pivotal detail from sanitized official records. Also, it had a great pace, engaging personalities, and inventive fight scenes. Why couldn't 47 Ronin spend more time on those elements?

      47 Ronin is not a hit in Japan - there's an article in Hollywood Reporter which claims that the movie has already generated a $200M writedown.