47 Ronin


Release: Christmas Day 2013


Ryan Gosling recently got an entire movie dedicated to him just staring for the entire duration of the film, so Keanu Reeves shrewdly hopped into that line next and got one of his own. The result is this hodge-podge of stunning CGI and a fifteenth-rate script barely fit for a movie-of-the-week, a film called 47 Ronin, directed by Carl Rinsch.

It appears to be his first stab at directing. And stab he does. Right into the heart of any hopes of this being a kick-ass little martial arts flick. Though it’s quite stylish and features some highly advanced CGI to bring mythical beasts and phenomena to the big screen convincingly, the plot is doomed to remain a side show compared to the visuals.

The kicker is that the story is actually inspiring, which only compounds the frustration experienced in this amateur production. In feudal Japan, a large group of disgraced samurai (‘ronin’) descend upon a neighboring village in an attempt to avenge the death of their former master by killing the current Shogun master, the considerably more sinister Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), and whilst they know they will still be marching to their graves for their murderous acts, their actions are honorable, justified.

The story sounds compelling, but it is about as compelling to watch as paint is while it’s drying.

When’s the last time you’ve been psyched to inform your friend that you got to see a little crack form in the drying process? “Holy crap dude, I better get off the phone. I need to get back to this paint job. I need to apply at least another layer. This is kind of getting out of hand. Text me!”

If your name was Keanu Reeves, you’d be swift in hanging up so you could get right back to doing more of this:

47 Ronin trailer 6

Considering this is intended to be a fictionalized account of a true story, our fearless director is actually given plenty of lee-way in terms of how much he wants to embellish the dramatic and fantastical elements — by definition, this is fiction. Also consider the first-time director’s godsend $170 million budget. So, Rinsch releases his inner Guillermo del Toro, thrusting gorgeous scenery and awesome visual effects into the center of attention and quite clearly the center of the entire thing’s financial (and directorial) considerations.

Reeves, as the most recognizable billed name, is about as bad in this lead role as he was amazing as Neo in The Matrix (and come on, don’t give me that B.S. saying you didn’t like him; you liked him alright, you were maybe just a bit envious). This character is troubled, but the acting couldn’t be more troubling. Flat and unconvincing, Kai is ultimately a lifeless protagonist. He tells us he’s suffered but he doesn’t look it. He’s clearly un-directed by a director who shouldn’t have been handed this material in the first place.

You should ditto that to the majority of the written dialogue of this film. 47 Ronin barely ensures that it covers all of the basic tenets of fabled Japanese stories. It shakily demonstrates this by showing at least 670 different slow-motion bows of respect; 669 different ass-kickingly great wardrobe changes; and 668 different close-ups of Kai just staring, non-reacting to some apparent drama ongoing. Character development is nonexistent and if  there is any to be noted, it is that of Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the latest to be cast into the many ronin, after a conflict between him and Kira boils over, bringing shame upon him.

Oishi and Kai never got along from the beginning. When Oishi is being attacked by some crazy bitch-ass mutant monster-animal in the opening scene, it is Kai’s heroics that allow him to live; yet for the sake of maintaining as many cliches as possible, Oishi is still a brazen, dismissive ass towards Kai, until the tables do indeed turn on him when he’s declared a ronin and the two rally to lead a large group of other samurai to kill the man responsible for Lord Asano (Min Tanaka)’s death.

The film simply has no lift at all. The opening scenes start with some interesting action sequences but nothing particularly memorable. After about a twenty minute slog through some insubstantial dialogue and Pinnochio-wooden performances a real concern begins to grow about whether or not this film is going to do anything. At all. Let another hour pass, and well. . .that paranoia earlier on was actually a warning sign telling you to exit the theater. Then and there. Quite simply, there’s nothing worthy of any further mention about this film. It is an utter failure.


1-5Recommendation: A disappointment in nearly every way, 47 Ronin has somehow won over a decent percentage of Rotten Tomatoes visitors (60% audience) but I can’t help feeling this is largely going to end up a massive box office miss, a squandering of Keanu Reeves’ admittedly one-trick talent, and an opportunity to tell a really inspiring story.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 127 mins.

Quoted: “Rivers of blood and mountains of corpses will not stand in our way.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

25 thoughts on “47 Ronin

  1. Pingback: 47 Ronin (2013) Review | Tim's Film Reviews

    • Hey Mark, yeah I wouldn’t be in a rush to see it. Heck it might make for a really good rental or Netflix viewing but in theaters this was just a disappointment. A real shame.


    • Yeah, it’s not that great. You are not missing much. Much as I like Keanu Reeves, he’s not even a reason to go see it. . . .


  2. Lovely rant, Tom. I really really hoped that this bad boy was going to be great, but I just keep reading shit about it and I hate that… The film looks great, yes and even though your words and everyone else’s bad words have told me to avoid it like the plague, I can’t seem to shake an odd desire to go to the theater and pay to watch it…


    • I’d say go for it, you might find a lot of stuff in here to like that I just overlooked. The visuals for sure are spectacular and that might be enough for others. The writing though is another story completely and was too much for me to get over to really say I enjoyed it.


    • The trailer has an ability to woo but the film cannot back any of it up at all. It is a real shame Mark. However I had fun making fun of it. For whatever that’s worth. 😀 😀


  3. Nice review Tom. It’s the type of movie you see once, and just leave it at that. I said the same thing with R.I.P.D., another one of my guilty pleasures that 2013 gave me.


    • I might add to that: see once and regret having seen it at all. THat’s where i’m at with this. It wasn’t good whatsoever for me. But if you enjoyed it a little bit, that’s good too 🙂


  4. LOL Tom! Great review. I had a feeling this one might be missable and that has been confirmed by a few almost scathing reviews now. It’s a shame, I rather like Keanu. And swords.


    • I love Keanu Reeves. I see where people are coming from thinking he isn’t a great actor, too. But he’s surrounded by nothing but crap here, which is yeah. . .very disappointing. So I had to poke some fun at this movie and particularly the director b/c you know, that’s classy and everything. 😛


      • It’s classy AND fun. ;P For me Keanu Reeves is what he is and I almost always enjoy his performances. He has chosen a few right doozies in his time though, this must be one of them. Like you I can understand why people don’t rate him, but like you I always bring the argument back around to The Matrix. 😉


      • Couldn’t have explained my stance on Keanu any classier than that!!! 😀

        If you do go see this please let me know what you think, i’d be curious!


  5. Yes, something about this movie looked off from the start. It seemed like one of those clever advertisements. It makes it look really good but deep down you know there’s not much under the fancy commercial.


    • Haha that’s a great way of putting it, I’d describe it as much myself. Keanu Reeves tricks me yet again. Though I didn’t ‘hate’ him in this per se, he wasn’t good. And the other support wasn’t great. The script was just truly horrid, and it had so much potential to be beter 😦


      • Agreed. I moreso think he’s mostly just settling for very cheesy material most of the time, too. and his reputation has been colored by those decisions. but things like Devil’s Advocate and even Speed demonstrate he can actually act. 😀


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