47 Ronin Reviews
See the 1962 Japanese film, Chushingura, instead. It is much closer to the real events and is the most comprehensive post-WWII movie, presented in two parts due to its epic length. This Hollywood insult to well-documented Japanese history is thoroughly disgusting.
This movie is based on a true story, one of better known stories in Japan, of 47 ronin (masterless samurai) that sought revenge for the death of their master knowing they would die doing it. The story taps into the ideas loyalty and honor that prevailed in feudal Japan and among the samurai. As a very white man with some knowledge of Japanese history, the film seems like a fairly accurate depiction of feudal Japan. Though one thing that bothered me was that among the words like seppuku, shogun, bushido, etc. that are used in the film, the lords are just called lords rather than daimyos. It seemed strange to not use the more accurate word. But overall, a realistic depiction... well, except for all the magic n shit. The movie is an interesting blend between reality and Japanese myth, featuring Tengu, witches, etc. The special effects are top notch.
I was worried, since the film featured Keanu Reeves on the poster so heavily, that this would be another The Last Samurai situation where the white man comes to save the poor, lowly Japanese. I was pleasantly surprised that not to be the case. Though Keanu Reeves character Kai (who is a half-breed raised by demons. So not really all that white) is an integral part to the ronins' quest, he isn't really the main hero. The film focuses heavily on the head samurai, Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada). It is his quest to avenge his fallen master and reclaim honor for his land. The acting in the film was good overall. Some deliveries were a bit weird, but just might be due to the fact that all the Japanese actors spoke with a slight accent. I am a fan of Keanu Reeves; dude has been in a lot of great action movies. In this film, he doesn't do all that much, emotional range wise. He is pretty much serious, gloomy, morose, or angry throughout the whole film. I don't think he smiles once. Poor, sad Keanu.
The main problem I have with the film is the pacing and the climax. There is so much action throughout the film and various setbacks that they suffer. When it is finally time for the climax and Oishi faces off the evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) it all feels sort of anticlimactic. The moment doesn't feel heightened from the rest of the film. The witch with heterochromia (Rinko Kikuchi) is an interesting character. She is chaotic and seeks power. You feel that even though she pledged herself to Lord Kira, she might have something up her sleeve. But nope, she was just his lackey by the end - very disappointing. Well the end-end is a good and not your cliché Hollywood ending, which is nice.
Owens grade: D