Thursday, April 3, 2014

“47 Ronin”: The Inside Story of Universal’s Samurai Disaster

Director: Carl Rinsch
Writers:Chris Morgan (screenplay), Hossein Amini(screenplay), 2 more credits 
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki |See full cast and crew

If ever a film was in need of an honourable death and a respectful burial it would be 47 Ronin, a cursed samurai epic that features a somnambulistic performance from a shell-shocked Keanu Reeves. Carl Rinsch's $175m drama was shot back in 2011 then found itself sat on the shelf for over a year, beset by bad omens and the stench of decay. It limps into cinemas and falls on its sword with a sigh.
Reeves is Kai, a disreputable mixed-race killing machine who rides to the aid of a band of exiled ronin in a mystical feudal Japan. Before long, our hero is slicing ogres, wrestling witches and romancing his lordship's daughter with the selfsame air of irritated bemusement. Meanwhile, ranked alongside him, the ronin (represented by a group of estimable Japanese actors) have their work cut out tackling reams of expository English-language dialogue. This dialogue appears to have leapt, fully formed, off the nearest idiot board.
47 Ronin is murky, muddled and leaden, although it's not quite the unmitigated disaster it's been cracked up to be. Rinsch's lethargic fantasy plotline at least comes leavened by some vibrant visual flourishes. I enjoyed the drifting ground fog that takes on human shapes, while the sorceress's green dress is made to twist and writhe like the bedclothes in an MR James ghost story. In the thick of the battle, Kai eventually proves his mettle and impresses his betters. They used to revile him and now they realise they love him. Kai accepts their grovelling apologies with a pained little frown. His thoughts, as ever, appear to be directed elsewhere.

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