Have you heard of the 47 Ronin? Well at the start of the 18th century there was a group of 47 Ronin which were the shining example of the Samurai code of honor by taking revenge on the man who killed their master – a Court Official named Kira Yoshinaka.
To this day people head to their grave site for inspiration.
Well this film stars Keanu Reeves who plays a ‘half-breed’ Japanese man who leads the 47 Ronin in their quest for vengeance.
While it is based on the legend and true events, it’s a ‘300-esque’ retelling done in Samurai fashion. The Spartan attitude and spirit becomes the Samurai code of honor, each shot and the overall look of the film is delivered like a work of art that is visually stunning and just like 300 – the addition of fantasy based elements and creatures takes us above and beyond the official legend.
The visual edge this film has does make it stand out and the trailer is the perfect example as many people (at least that I spoke to) were quite excited to see this film and what it had to offer – especially with a budget approaching $200 million!
Unfortunately that budget wasn’t really recovered and this film has proven to be a box office flop.
There’s a lot of mixed opinions from people I know. Some people say they loved it, merely thought it was ‘ok’ and other people blatantly label it as ‘total crap’. So it’s hard to say whether many will find this movie to their liking – but I actually enjoyed it.
My only real criticism is it’s very two-dimensional in plot. (spoilers) The Ronin’s former master is killed, they then plot and execute their revenge and then commit Seppuku (ritual suicide). The End. While that pretty much overs the events of the legend itself, adding a bit more to that story would make it more interesting – and they did try.
Keanu Reeve’s character finds himself going from servant to Samurai as the men around him gain respect for him and he tries to win over a young woman who is seen as above him in class. They’ve then added the level of fantasy and visual style to give it that unique feel.
Overall I can see why people don’t like the film, it’s pretty straight but I did love watching things unfold and really appreciated the colorful characters the movie had. From the witches to the weird alien monks – down to the Samurai warrior who reminds me of giant Yoshimitsu from Tekken. Unfortunately, this giant warrior could’ve ended up being a mean adversary but dies rather suddenly in a disappointing way.
This movie definitely draws you in, it just seems to burnout so quickly and you’re left thinking “oh, is that it?” (I honestly thought there’d be more!). To me it was a case of enjoying the introduction and anticipating a lot to happen for it only to end in an anticlimactic way.
But there is a nice message that is still delivered about the code of honor – that I appreciate.
The action is definitely not a martial arts movie fans dream come true though. I was expecting some fantastic sword fights but the type of action leaned towards CGI / fantasy based fights. Watching Keanu Reeves fight the dragon had me imagining him swing a sword around madly in front of a green screen, but the imagery was still pretty cool.
The movie isn’t entirely absent of martial arts, it has some moments but overall is more of a fun fantasy movie with a heavy Samurai theme. I can’t give a solid recommendation as certain people will enjoy it like I did, whilst some won’t.
But if you’re curious you’ll have to make up your own mind by watching it yourself! Then let me know in the comments below (or on Facebook) just what you thought of it!
On Blu Ray –
Region A (US & Canada)
Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe etc)
On DVD –
Region 1 (US & Canada)
Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)