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47 Ronin

47 Ronin: 18th Century Japanese Legend Gets the Hollywood Treatment

  • Hiroyuki SanadaKeanu Reeves...
  • Action & AdventureFantasy
  • Carl Rinsch
reviewed by
Marija Loncarevic
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47 Ronin: 18th Century Japanese Legend Gets the Hollywood Treatment

Japan has been recounting the 18th century legend of the forty-seven Ronin for quite some time as one of the most famous examples of the Samurai code of honour. Having been adapted to five different feature films, Hollywood finally takes its shot on putting its own spin on the classic tale of revenge.

Growing up in feudal Japan, Kai (Reeves), a child of a British Sailor and a Japanese peasant, has always been seen as a half-breed. After being abandoned by his mother, he was soon discovered by Lord Asano (Tinaka); a respected samurai master of the Ako province who takes the young boy under his wing

Over the years, Kai proved to be quite the skilful samurai; however, thanks to his heritage, he is never fully accepted and despite his best efforts, he was never been able to measure up to Asano’s highest-ranking samurai, Oishi (Sanada).

Meanwhile, over at the Nagato province, the evil Lord Kira (Asano) is busy cooking up an evil plan which will see the removal of Lord Asano, so as to gain absolute power over the kingdom. With the help of wicked witch, Mizuki (Kikuchi), he is quick to deliver on his promise and the Ako province is soon left without its master.  Turning to Kai for support, Oishi – now titled a Ronin – needs to gather the remaining samurais to put a stop to Lord Kira’s pitiless rule.

Many would be surprised to learn that Reeves, who has been marketed as the films’ main attraction, is in fact more of a secondary character, leaving Sanada to take centre stage as Oishi. Reeves – whose involvement in the film as a white American has stirred quite a bit of controversy – feels like an outsider and ultimately fails to portray Kai as someone the audience can engage with. Luckily, Sanada is more than up to the task and leads with gusto.

47 Ronin marks the directorial debut for director, Carl Rinsch, who, along with Fast & Furious writer, Chris Morgan, succeeds in interpreting the legend into a more Hollywood-suited blockbuster. From authentic production design to the gorgeous props and costume pieces, the film is definitely an eye-pleaser.  However, it’s with the story – or lack thereof – that the film is unsuccessful; it feels incredibly reserved, which, in telling such a grand tale, lets down the film as a whole.

And so while Rinsch and co faced a mammoth task in doing the celebrated 1941 Japanese film adaptation justice, there’s also a valid argument that suggests that with such a memorable story and timeless themes, this should have been much better.

Like This? Try

The 47 Ronin (1941), The Wolverine (2013), 13 Assassins (2010)

360 Tip

The aformentioned 1941 film adaptation of the story, The 47 Ronin, is an astounding four hours long.  

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