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:
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.
Recommendation: 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.
Running Time: 127 mins.
Quoted: “Rivers of blood and mountains of corpses will not stand in our way.”
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