16:00 - 21st June 2014, by Calum Waddell

47 Ronin

A massive flop in cinemas last December - Christmas catastrophe 47 Ronin features Keanu Reeves and an amazing cast of Japanese veterans that include Hiroyuki Sanada (Ringu), Ko Shibasaki (Battle Royale) and Tadanobu Asano (Ichi the Killer). As such, the question needs to be posed: is it really all that bad? Well, yes and no. NEO readers will doubtlessly find themselves charmed by the many amazing landscapes, depicting a mythical and frequently mesmerising (if completely comic book) vision of 18th century Japan. Plus, there's the draw of the numerous familiar faces - from the best of contemporary Tokyo cinema - which add a definite allure to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the story offers little in the way of swashbuckling fun. Reeves essays a character called Kai: the sole Caucasian brought up in a land of samurai ethics and civil conflict. The ronin themselves trawl feudal-era Japan in an attempt to find and destroy an evil warlord - an easy enough plot to present, one would think, but first time filmmaker Carl Rinsch (given an incredible $175 million budget) and screenwriters Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini get trapped in a wealth of exposition. There are witches, dragons, scenes of (bloodless) hari-kari, and lots of close-ups of Reeves delivering corny heroic speeches whilst sporting a beard.

Too many questions remain unanswered as well. Sure, we can accept the need to have everyone talking English, but why does Reeves still have an American accent? Why is the 'heroic' Shogun every bit as brutal as the apparently evil warlord? All in, 47 Ronin is not as bad as you have heard - but given the obvious potential, it is depressing that the end result is samurai swill.

The cast alone makes this worth watching - but otherwise 47 Ronin is a frustrating, if good looking, disappointment.
SCORE: 2/5
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