47 Ronin

While 'realistic' isn't going to be one of the adjectives featured on the Blu-ray cover, the story of the 47 Ronin actually is real. It does not, however, involve demons, haunted woods, or people turning into dragons, as this movie would have you believe. It also didn't take place in ancient Japan, despite what the opening voice-over says. The eighteenth century was a while back, admittedly, but it won't count as ancient for quite some time yet.

Historically, this happened in 1702, and as far as I can tell from the very limited sample of European clothing they showed, that's about the time period they were going for here. And setting aside the witches and the lizardmen, they stuck to the original story relatively closely. Thanks to a feud between two higher-ranking men, Kira and Asano, Asano was disgraced and ordered to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide. This verdict made all of his samurai into ronin, or masterless warriors, which was a bad thing to be in 18th century Japan.

It was worse to be a half-breed, though, which is another thing they added for the film, in the person of Kai (Keanu Reeves, The Day the Earth Stood Still). They also made Asano (Min Tanaka) old enough to have a grown-up daughter named Mika (Kô Shibasaki), though he had no children in the real world and was 34 when he died. To make up for this, Kira (Tadanobu Asano, Thor: The Dark World), who was really sixty-plus, is in his thirties here. Okay, they stuck pretty closely by Hollywood standards, let's put it that way. At least they kept all the names.

Anyway, Ôishi (Hiroyuki Sanada, The Wolverine) was the chief samurai, and here gets a son, though I can't tell if he really had kids or not. Kai is arguably the main character, but he doesn't actually carry the whole movie like you might expect, and honestly, I think I like Keanu much better in small doses, so I was glad the other characters had plenty to do. Mika's mostly just a traditional damsel in distress, sadly, but the witch (Rinko Kikuchi, looking not at all sweet and innocent like she did in Pacific Rim) was pretty cool, despite being also pretty creepy. She doesn't get a name, though.

As in life, however, the movie is all about getting revenge for the disgrace visited on Lord Asano, however else they dressed it up with special effects, and it was actually a pleasant surprise (though admittedly my expectations weren't high). Not great cinema, but an entertaining film, and worth a respectable three and a half out of five. I had been saving a possible spot for this in the Bad part of my upcoming Good, Bad, and Ugly for 2013, but as it turns out I didn't need to bother.

The witch preparing to drop in for a visit. Note the creepy mismatched eyes.


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