After over a year of reshoots and delays, Carl Rinsch’s samurai/fantasy flick, 47 Ronin, has been plopped down into the moviegoing fray that is Christmas Day, mostly to be ignored by audiences. And that’s probably just how it should be. 2013 managed to fit one last dull, forgettable movie into a year stuffed with them. I watched the movie on Christmas, and my memory of it is already fluttering away. This is kind of a pity, too, since 47 Ronin has some good things going for it — like its maturity (especially for a big-budget action flick) and visual style. None of those things, however, include any sort of true imagination or spark, leaving us a high-concept action picture that’s simply flaccid.
The film itself is based on the story of the 47 Ronin, a tale that originated in the 1700s, about a group of samurai who set out to avenge the death of their master, knowing success will demand their own deaths. 47 Ronin takes this concept and sprinkles in some fantasticated elements from Japanese mythology. Despite the addition of demons and CGI beasts, the movie never raises above the level of a straight-faced samurai film. This more serious-minded, almost classy approach to an action-adventure film is surprisingly refreshing, but it also makes for a boring, wooden, inefficient movie that’s not very much fun. Director Rinsch so badly wants to pay homage to the films of Kurosawa that he has sucked the air out his own goofy fantasy film.
According to the way the film is being promoted — 47 Ronin stars Keanu Reeves as the magical Kai, but he’s never the protagonist (that would be Hiroyuki Sanada (Sunshine), the shamed samurai, Oishi). Instead, the movie goes out of its way to make room for Reeves’ character, adding a love story (part of why the movie was delayed in the first place) and more screentime — things that simply bog down an already languid movie. It’s an incredibly inefficient film — the first third is all setup, while the rest is a lot of waxing on and on about honor and duty. This is broken up with a handful of solid action sequences, none of which are especially interesting — apart from the buildup to the film’s climax. This is director Rinsch’s one bit of truly impressive filmmaking, and the only time the film shows any life in its pace or editing. Beyond this, there’s little to recommend. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic elements.
Playing at United Artists Beaucatcher.