47 Ronin Blu-ray (film review).

May 25, 2014 | By | Reply More

Japanese culture has always seemed a bit strange to Americans. Not able to comprehend its complexities with the language a complete no-no, fighting a war in the Pacific just added to the problem. The Japs didn’t play by the rules and were cast in the roles of devils. When the war finished, General MacArthur and the Americans did their best to Americanise the Japanese by re-inventing their culture, pushing baseball, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s burgers, popular music and any other American thing they could think of. Although it worked to some extent and Japan changed from being war-like to commercial, all this samurai stuff didn’t really go down well with the drive-in movies in the mid-west. So here we have a hybrid between Japanese and American culture with Keanu Reeves as the hero, half-American, half-Japanese, fighting a war that none of us can really understand. Let’s face it, they wouldn’t have made a movie with no European because it wouldn’t be acceptable to audiences within the USA, thus the injection of the part played by Reeves.


So what did they do? Well, they took an old story from Japan’s history, 18th century to be precise and mixed it up with fantasy to give us a polished and commanding performance. No doubt about it, ‘47 Ronin’ is really up to the mark as far as special effects are concerned and the action sequences are as good as you could get. Don’t expect real history because that disappears three minutes into the movie when they go on a hunting scene, not for wild boar but a weird type of multi-eyed creature from the realms of fantasy. Hunting? I would have left these creatures well alone!

Don’t expect entertaining dialogue because the Japanese samurai haven’t got much to say. They are a bit laconic, like the old Spartans. Reeves plays Kai, a half-breed with a dodgy past, rescued by a kindly Lord Asano who takes him into Japanese society. Although still an outcast, he engages in a romantic union with the Lord’s daughter, a lovely girl called Miko. An evil shape-shifter witch, in the form of a fox with differently coloured eyes, steps into the scene to enchant the already evil Lord Kira. By dastardly means, at a shindig in front of the nasty chief samurai Shogun, Asano is forced to commit hari-kari. Asano’s heirs and retainers, the 47 Ronin, become outcasts but swear vengeance against Kira. Unfortunately for Kai, Miko gets taken away by the cad Kira who will make her his wife.

It then becomes a struggle between good and evil with lots of fantastic adventures on the way to a final showdown. Actually, Reeves doesn’t have much to say and bows his head quite a lot. A bit subservient for most people but all he wants above anything else, even the beautiful Miko, is acceptance by the other Japanese. He doesn’t want to be a half-breed outcast, he wants to be a proper samurai, despite the fact that he has abilities far exceeding any of the rest. During the struggle, he gets the nod of approval from the rest of the guys.

On one occasion, the Ronin come across the Europeans, a motley crew living in a village with their trading vessels. None of them are portrayed in a good light, being evil, corrupt and ruthless, dishonourable as well, everything that the samurai are not. Kai is found amongst them, fighting as a gladiator against hideous creatures. What a contrast between the Europeans and Japanese!

Without wishing to say much more, events come to crisis point with a final battle. The ending is completely shocking. Yes, it’s not really a pleasant ending but it does come somewhat unexpected. Shocking it certainly is but it’s all part and parcel with the Japanese samurai life.

I believe this was a bit of a failure in the box office but these days does that really matter? If it sells plenty of DVD and Blu-ray, as it undoubtedly will, it will be a success. This isn’t a Kurosawa movie, far from it, and it isn’t ‘The Seven Samurai’. It’s escapist adventure with fantasy chucked in for good measure and, really when viewing it from this perspective, it’s a very good movie. If you put aside preconceived ideas about the Japanese and think of this as an adventure taking place on a different planet, you will be quite well satisfied. Don’t be a nitpicker watcher because that doesn’t work when watching ‘47 Ronin’. It’s not a movie for nitpickers but one for slashing samurai swords, albeit in another place and time.

The Blu-ray came with extra material which included, deleted scenes, features on special effects, Reeves& Kai, The Legend and fighting scenes.

Rod MacDonald

May 2014

(pub: Universal Pictures UK. 1 Blu-ray 119 minute film with extras. Price: £13.00 (UK). ASIN: B0090JBL14)

In English Sub-titles available in English and many other languages.

cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi and Ko Shibasaki

check out website: www.universalpictures.co.uk/


Category: Fantasy, Films

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