Thursday, January 2, 2014

47 Ronin

Movie Name: 47 Ronin
Year of Release: 2013
Director: Carl Rinsch
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

Carl Rinsch's debut feature, "47 Ronin" comes a year after it's original date of release and surrounded by news of additional reshoots and editorial control struggles between the studio and the director. The film follows the story of Kai, a young boy who is found by a Master Samurai in Japan. Kai is of a mixed race and is believed to possess supernatural powers, so he's raised as an outcast (except for the daughter of his Master who loves him). When his Master is killed through treachery of a rival lord, Kai now an adult, is sold to slavery, whereas all the Samurai from that clan are declared Ronin (samurais without a master). It's up to these men to avenge the honor of their Master and restore the peaceful life their village had.
"47 Ronin" is a well known (and true story) in Japan, and has in fact been tackled before by other directors. Carl Rinsch, who made his name with commercials (for Nexus for instance), works with a script that combines the more authentic attempt at capturing the samurai traditions and code of honor, with the more fantastical elements of the supernatural. This hybrid take on the story aims to create a more entertaining and palatable experience for audiences who are not familiar with certain cultural references. However the main issue with the film, ends up being the script itself, which fails to create much depth for any of the characters, including the central love couple of Kai and Mika. The actors try their best to bring these cliches to life, but there's only so much they can effectively create from such limited material. Visually the film is stunning, with fantastic work from production designer Jan Roelfs (who worked on Sally Potter's "Orlando" for instance), the beautiful cinematography from John Mathieson (who has worked extensively with Ridley Scott) and impressive visual effects. The film has nonetheless a fair entertaining momentum to it, despite the flaws.