A Samurai film brings with it a lot of promises about it being a great film to watch in theatres and on DVD later. Especially, when you have actors like Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada sharing screen space. There’s wonder to be expected. Unfortunately, 47 Ronin makes for a supremely tedious film with all the elements of a good action film albeit a Samurai film, but one that falls flat due to an incapability of meeting its expectations. Think Seven Samurai, The Last Samurai, Kill Bill Vol. I (major elements of the Samurai culture), or even the original 47 Ronin that released many years back.
The film starts with a narration of the story of the Ronin (masterless Samurai) and how they came to be. Everything is perfect till there’s a oil and water like amalgamation of Hollywood and Samurai culture. Doesn’t mix. Instead confuses. Besides, there’s a love story inserted in the midst of all of this and that’s mostly what you see Keanu Reeves do – pine for his lost love. What could have been a very gripping action film, lost its main purpose somewhere and what you get instead is sadness in the viewers’ heart, especially one who has really enjoyed watching films on this subject. Someone like yours truly. There is a certain thrill you expect when the beautiful sword is drawn and a traitor is executed. Elements that should rather be flamboyantly presented are drained of all the exuberance in the film.
But it all just went amiss. I ask the film’s makers this rather daunting question: why did this happen? They were apparently scared to experiment. Although the film isn’t totally unwatchable, with the bushido code in place, with the lore in place and told the way it unfolds, the added attractions however, in the form of a shape-shifting (creepy) witch (Rinko Kikuchi), a troll-like warrior, some ghoul-like monks, and a CGI gone wrong dragon (this after the beautiful and formidable Smaug amongst other such creatures we know) was a bit much and a two-hour too long film, which could’ve and should’ve ended sooner.
Maybe Keanu Reeves has so been loved as Neo that accepting him as Kai is a bit difficult. All in all, it is a one-time watch. But that’s all. Nothing to take home.