Keanu Reeves is back in a genre film – his first since the conclusion of the Matrix trilogy. 47 Ronin is a re-telling of the classical Japanese tale of honor and revenge as a sword (or katana in this case) and sorcery fantasy. An additional twist is the inclusion of Kai – Reeves’ half-breed protagonist – to highlight the Japanese prejudice against outsiders and to provide a doomed romance.
All told, 47 Ronin is an average fantasy flick with very little character development beyond the superficial. The fantastical elements are not explored much either and the audience is expected to take the witchcraft and magical plot points at face value. The action sequences and visual effects are also average at best – nothing extraordinary and quite familiar to fans of the genre – especially when compared to a movie like The Desolation of Smaug.
So what is the attraction of 47 Ronin, if any? Slim pickings, I’m afraid. It attempts to rely on the strength of the original story with its themes of loyalty and the Samurai code of honor to deliver the dramatic content but that very power is somewhat subverted by the fantastical elements. And to insert Reeves into the mix – for the sake of Western audiences – is too jarring and unrealistic in the context of that period in Japanese history. To further complicate this with magical powers makes it very challenging to maintain that crucial suspension of disbelief.
For fans of Keanu Reeves and the fantasy genre only.