Review: 47 Ronin (2013)

A normally decent cast is wasted in 47 Ronin, a film that only finds life in some half decent fight scenes.

It’s already bombed stateside (and it looks set to fail this side of the pond as well) but is 47 Ronin really that bad? Well it’s not bad so much as the epitome of mediocre, and in a holiday season where audiences can watch The Desolation of Smaug, mediocre just doesn’t cut it.

There are some good set pieces and the CGI isn’t too bad but there is the distinct feel of average about the whole affair.  The opening hour feels a lot longer and to be honest not a lot happens, just a plodding back story about a rivalry between two Japanese houses, it’s billed as an action film about samurai, so it’s bizarre and a big misstep that there isn’t a great deal of action before the second half.  The inter titles that bookend the action try and give the film some historic context but actually really just highlight the films major problem; it doesn’t know what it wants to be.

Keanu Reeves‘s character could have been genuinely interesting if he had actually been given more than a handful of lines and granted more than the lacklustre back story afforded to him. Whilst it’s true he isn’t the greatest actor, it’s not his fault that this character falls flat – you may end up feeling a little sorry for him because he’s trying his best throughout.

The supporting characters are for the most part played well and given a little more room to breathe but they are too po-faced for the material. It’s not that the mystical elements don’t work, but in a film where witches turn into dragons you can’t shake the feeling that everyone is taking things a little too seriously.

When things do finally get going though 47 Ronin has something to offer, the final fight especially is visually impressive and the sword play is excellent. Even the more OTT CGI scenes are entertaining and imaginative, it’s just what happens in-between that will likely send you off to sleep.

One part dramatic study of the ways of samurai and one part fantasy action romp, it scrapes by as the latter but takes far too long to get there. One for Netflix on a rainy evening and not much else… don’t expect a sequel.

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