47 Ronin (2013)

(On Cable TV, October 2014) It’s not that 47 Ronin is an entirely bad movie.  Its visuals are spectacular, its intentions are laudable and its actors do well.  But despite the vast budget and the strong technical credentials, the film feels almost unbelievably… dull.  Part of the issue seems to be meddling with the original story of the forty-seven Ronin: despite the addition of a half-Japanese protagonist and supernatural elements, nothing seems to raise the pulse of the film beyond the bare minimum of what an adventure is supposed to deliver to viewers.  In keeping with the original, the conclusion is a downer, which does seem curious after a story that has been re-thought to include standard Hollywood tropes.  At least one can revel in the visuals: the costumes are colorful, the CGI-enhanced camera swoops across the landscape, and some (only some) of the special effects are well-used.  Rinko Kikuchi is the film’s standout performer as a villainous witch: it’s a bit of a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t measure up to her crazy energy.  Otherwise, 47 Ronin is a fairly boring affair, neither historically accurate to be respectable, nor energetic enough to be enjoyable as a purely entertaining pop-corn romp.  Carl Rinsch’s direction becomes incoherent the moment things start moving too quickly, and while the images are pretty, they’re not backed by flowing continuity: The story clunks without grace and the script doesn’t deliver much in terms of payoffs.  There’s an odd feeling of mismatched sensibilities about Hollywood taking on the Forty-seven Ronin legend: I would have much rather seen a made-in-Japan film about the subject that a Westernized version with Keanu Reeves (far too old for the role, and playing it with his usual lack of affect) forced into it.  If someone ever wonders how some film simply “don’t click”, 47 Ronin is as good an example as any.

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