Valdosta Daily Times

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December 28, 2013

‘47 Ronin’ already had enough

VALDOSTA — “47 Ronin” (Action/Historical: 1 hour, 59 minutes)

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kô Shibasaki, Jin Akanishi and Tadanobu Asano

Director: Carl Rinsch

Rated: PG-13 (Intense sequences of violence, some disturbing images, and thematic elements)

Movie Review: “47 Ronin” is a longtime Japanese legend that takes place in early 1700s. It is about ronin, masterless samurai, avenging the death of their leader, Lord Asano (Min Tanaka). Asano attacks an unarmed guest in his house, Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), via the trickery of witchcraft by Lord Kira’s witch (Rinko Kikuchi). Dishonored by the action, Asano commits suicide through the ritual act to keep his family from also facing dishonor. Ôishi (Sanada), leader of Asano’s samurai, gathers 47 samurai a year later to enact revenge for their lord’s false dishonor by Lord Kira. Joining the samurai is Kai (Reeves), a Caucasian whom Lord Asano took in as a child.  

This tale’s basis is an old Japanese story of brave warriors who face death to avenge the death of their leader. Their quest is such a righteous one that people travel to their burial site each year on Dec. 14 as a tribute.

The samurais’ bravery is honorable, although this screenplay weakens their story with addition of side stories.

The most notable problem with this film is the inclusion of Kai, as played by Reeves. Like “The Last Samurai” (Director Edward Zwick, 2003) and numerous other fictional tales about other cultures — a Caucasian held as the hero must help an indigenous people succeed.

This upholds the inclusion of European dominance imbedded in literature, television and films for centuries.   

The character of Kai is unneeded to make this film work as a brilliant story. Although Reeves is a likable actor, his inclusion does nothing to make this plot better. Even more, the film adds sorcery, beings that look like extraterrestrials and monsters. Albeit they are intriguing, they are superfluous. They and many special and visual effects are mere distractions, backdrops for an already great tale.  

This is a shame since this is intriguing entertainment. A righteous story is always worth sharing, but movie producers can over do it. This is the case with “47 Ronin.”      

Grade: C+ (Too many extras dishonor an otherwise solid narrative.)

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