Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, and thematic elements. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: December 25, 2013 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.
Using a slow pace 47 Ronin attempts to explain why 46 of 47 Samurai committed suicide after revenging the death of their leader.
Keanu Reeves plays a half breed, his parents were a peasant girl and a Caucasian. He and the princess have eyes for each other but Lord Kira has plans to marry her even when he does nothing to help her father when dad is embarrassed in front of the emperor. The miscue is caused by the evil witch who has one brown eye and a blue cat eye and has the power to influence the consciousness of a Samurai which can keep them from fighting with the champion of the next settlement.
The Ronins are former Samurai who have lost their status for one reason or another usually by not pleasing the Emperor. The premise may have historical roots but the idea is objectionable in today's value of life. In their world an honorable death and a high achievement for these committed Samurai (soldiers) but at times love and loyalty interfere.
Challenges come from the fox with two different eyes who is later the witch who wants to be the consort of even better the princess of Lord Kira, the ambitious leader who challenges the 47 Ronin. She uses her disguises and union with the underworld along with shadow and a spider filled with poison to limit the performance of the Ronin, leaving them vulnerable to the wrath of the emperor and defeat in battle.
The idea of self sacrifice is introduced early as the father of the princess agrees to take his life to save others. He happily forces a dagger into his abdomen in public to satisfy the needs of respect for the emperor. The story brings us to many villages where battles with locals who are helped by the witch.
With all the battle time on the screen we would expect an action filled exciting film that would appeal to the lovers of special effects and martial arts action, but the pace is far slower than expected and with little explanation of the practice it is difficult to be emotional about 46 guys who are in a quest to death. Without serving up the motivation for the Ronins the quest feels limited perhaps even silly.
So we end up with the only hope for the princess who is about to be forced to marry Lord Kira, the ambitious one who forced the death of her father, are the Ronin who like robots accept death and look forward to meeting their ancestors in the next life.
Eventually we see how the evil one is challenged on his wedding day, how the emperor is informed of the conspiracy, his decision on the faith of the 47 and the redemption of Keanu Reaves despite being a half breed.
None of this is enough to make 47 Ronin a worthy story of brave soldiers called Samurai.