Review: 47 Ronin
East meets west with a flurry of digital trickery in this ill-conceived martial arts epic inspired by the real-life tale of a group of samurai, who doled out justice in 18th-century Japan to avenge their master.
While the original story is tightly woven into Japanese culture and has been passed down through the generations, Carl Rinsch's lavish spectacle will quickly be forgotten.
The film's reported $170m budget has been invested in gorgeous production design and endless costumes. Beneath all of the lustrous packaging though, 47 Ronin is little more than a hoary B-Movie with little interest in the nuances of Tokugawa-era Japan.
Keanu Reeves plays outcast Kai, who is taken in by kindly Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) despite the other subjects labelling him a demon. Kai grows up a sensitive soul and catches the eye of Asano's spirited daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki), but he realises their romance across the social divide is doomed.
Mika's heartache turns to anguish when scheming Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) uses a high-profile visit from Shogun Tsunayoshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) to besmirch Lord Asano's reputation. The Shogun orders Asano to commit seppuku – ritual suicide by disembowelment – to avoid bringing shame upon his house, then permits Mika one year to mourn before she must marry Kira and thereby unite the two kingdoms.
Reeves has never been the most expressive actor and here he is practically zombified, struggling to convince us of his forbidden desire for Mika.