Combustible Celluloid
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With: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi, Kô Shibasaki,Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Written by: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini, based on a screen story by Chris Morgan, Walter Hamada
Directed by: Carl Rinsch
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic elements
Running Time: 119
Date: 12/25/2013

47 Ronin (2013)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Bushido Whacked

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Following several classic versions of this story, including Kenji Mizoguchi's 1941 movie, and the 1962 version with Toshiro Mifune -- the new English-language version of 47 Ronin seems entirely pointless. Not to mention that it's vaguely insulting, relying on a western director, Carl Rinsch, and a western star, Keanu Reeves, to make it "appealing" to western audiences.

In ancient feudal Japan, an evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and a witch (Rinko Kikuchi) plot to take over a rival province by disgracing its leader, Lord Asano, and turning its samurai warriors into ronin (i.e. masterless samurai). After surviving a year in captivity, Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) bands together the ronin for revenge, and enlists the aid of a mysterious half-breed, Kai (Keanu Reeves), who seems to have special abilities. Together they must stop Lord Kira before he marries Lord Asano's beautiful daughter Mika (Kou Shibasaki). Kai has another reason to go into battle: he secretly loves Mika, and she loves him. But can the ronin survive the impossible odds -- and witchcraft -- that lay ahead?

At the helm, Rinsch turns in a movie that's deadly serious yet entirely lifeless. The action scenes are totally confusing, and several little plot threads are lazily abandoned or sidestepped. (What happened to the samurai who was poisoned by the witch?) The pace is monotonous and numbing. Its only attempt at humor is at the expense of a "jolly fat man," which just goes to underline just how culturally backward the entire project really is. Opening Christmas Day without an advance screening for critics, it looks to be an expensive flop that has wasted the talents of its cast.

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