47 Ronin (M)

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner10/01/2014

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 111 mins

47 Ronin features decent fight sequences, impressive CGI work and superb production design, but it's also frequently repetitive and suffers from a flat script, poor pacing and dodgy performances, with Reeves too often relegated to the sidelines.

What's it all about?
Directed by Carl Rinsch, 47 Ronin is based on a Japanese legend that dates back to the early 18th century. Keanu Reeves stars as Kai, a half-breed who is found in the forest and raised by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), whose daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki) falls in love with him, even though Asano's samurai warriors all regard him as an outcast. When Asano is tricked into taking his own life by treacherous warlord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his shape-shifting witch sidekick (Rinko Kikuchi), his 46 now leaderless samurai (known as Ronin), led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), decide to avenge his murder, even though they realise that to do so will bring about their own deaths.

In order to defeat Lord Kira, Oishi realises that the Ronin will require Kai's help, since he is both an agile fighter and a remarkable tracker. And when Lord Kira kidnaps Mika (Ko Shibasaki) and announces his intention to marry her, Kai is compelled to join their quest to save the woman he loves, even though their relationship is forbidden.

The Good
The film reputedly cost around $170 million to make and the money is certainly up on screen in terms of the state-of-the-art CGI work – the various creatures are extremely impressive, augmented by some effective 3D work. In addition, the film is beautifully shot, courtesy of John Mathieson's striking cinematography and the production design is superb throughout. On top of that, Rinsch orchestrates a number of decent fight scenes and doesn't fall victim to the usual trap of over-editing them so that you can't tell who's hitting who with what.

The Bad
The main problem with the film is the script – the dialogue is extremely flat and fails to engage on an emotional level, despite all the murder and treachery going on. There's also a problem with the film's attitude to the source material – it seems an odd decision to add elements of fantasy and witchcraft to a tale that's revered throughout Japan as a true story, for example.

On top of that, the acting is perfunctory at best, perhaps because the Japanese actors are all delivering their lines in English. As for Reeves, he brings a convincing physicality to the role (despite being much too old if he's supposed to be Shibasaki's age) and at least the film has the sense to play to his strengths by not giving him too much dialogue. That said, Reeves is too often relegated to the sidelines, which is baffling considering his ultimate importance to the plot.

Worth seeing?
47 Ronin is watchable enough if you're just after some decent fantasy action scenes and CGI effects, but the script is disappointing, the acting is uninspired and the pacing drags considerably in the middle section.

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47 Ronin (M)
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Content updated: 21/01/2020 01:56

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