January 9, 2014

And you shall know him by the trail of dead samurai. Imagine Keanu vs dragons and demons.

Movie review: Raise your katanas versus evil in ‘47 Ronin’

By , GMA NewsJanuary 9, 2014 1:31pm

The tale of the 47 ronin is the Japanese equivalent of the 300 Spartans against the Persian invaders, or Lapu Lapu’s last stand against the Spanish (maybe even Tirad Pass, if we stretch it); it’s a historical account of a courageously small band of fighters soldiering on outgunned and vastly outnumbered.

Imagine if you will how purists must feel when a folk tale is appropriated by Disney or Hollywood for its own purposes, adding or abridging some core facts for dramatic purposes. This movie is much the same beast. Also, it’s not to be confused with the 1941 all-Japanese, black and white feature directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, from which, by the slick look of this one, director Carl Rinsch drew little encouragement from as he did with animé and a few Miike movies.

Like many such stories set so long ago that they become legendary and folkloric, they are representational of fighting on despite overwhelming odds. In lieu of this, the spirit of the thing —and its function as rallying cry for morale—is more important than actual facts. Which just means “based on a true story” is like saying “From Hell” happened just like that.

Likely why magical beasts, witchcraft, and demons made sense for this movie set in 18th century Japan.

Keanu Reeves plays the half-Caucasian, half-Jap Kai, taken in by the family of Lord Asano (Min Tanaka), ruler of the provincial fief of Akô, when he was found near death and trying to escape from his demon-infested home. He’s since been raised in the protection of the Asano fief, albeit shunned and outcast by the other men, even with his amazing ability to wield a sword. His only friend is the Princess Mika (Ko Shibasaki), who is almost of age with him.

The action here is more than decent and much of that is due to Keanu himself. Lest we forget that Reeves once battled criminal elements aboard buses and was the superhuman nemesis of AI machines, here he is holding a katana with much authority, slicing apart chimeric beasts, and slaying enemy samurai left and right.

One of the most visually-inspired action sequences in this movie is when Kai returns to his demon guardian’s home (to get to the place you need to walk through a bamboo forest haunted by a fog of ghosts) for his ronin to acquire some swords. The demonic monk leader asks for a test of will and Kai is forced to oblige, showing his old guardian he hasn’t forgotten those demonic tricks of celerity he was taught as a kid.



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