"I will search for you through 1000 worlds and 10000 lifetimes!"
If it weren't for the title I would have never guessed this film was about 47 Ronin (47 disgraced samurais who have failed their master), because we barely get some character development from two of them (and one technically isn't a ronin). The rest of the Ronin are simply placed in the background for the action scenes, but they are completely ignored. Something similar happened in 300, but at least that film had incredible action scenes and a memorable lead performance from Gerard Butler who engaged its audience. It's not the case here with Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada who fail to draw us into their world. This hurts the action scenes because we never really care for the outcome of these men. When I first saw the poster for 47 Ronin I thought this might be a cool movie, but when I watched the trailer I dropped any expectations I might've had. Not even the cool looking villains in the poster had much screen time and every single character in this film is one dimensional. This was a very dull fantasy film despite its subject matter and its two hour runtime began to take its toll on me considering it was very poorly paced. The film begins with a prologue, setting up the action, but I really don't know when the prologue ended and when the actual story began because it took forever to set up the plot. It's a shame this film was so poorly realized because first time director, Carl Rinsch, was given a huge budget to work with. Despite the gorgeous landscape there was nothing extraordinary about the action scenes and this is one of those movies that will be quickly forgotten.
Screenwriters Chris Morgan (from the Fast and Furious franchise) and Hossein Amini (Drive) based this screenplay on one of Japan's most endearing folktales. The story begins with a prologue explaining the code of the samurai and the feudal situation of ancient Japan. Then we are introduced to Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) of Ako who finds a young half-breed named Kai in the forest and takes him back home. Several years later, Kai (Keanu Reeves), who is now a grown man, continues to serve under Lord Asano helping the samurai led by Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) protect Ako from mystic creatures. While hosting a tournament, as a welcoming for the Shogun in Ako, Lord Asano is bewitched into hurting Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) of Nagato. Lord Asano didn't realize his actions were induced by a Witch (Rinko Kikuchi) who was on Lord Kira's side, and he is forced to take his own life by the Shogun. The samurais are punished and disgraced to live as ronin outside of Ako and Kai is sold as a slave, while Lord Kira is named ruler of Ako. In order to restore their honor, Kai and the disgraced samurais embark on a dangerous quest to avenge their master's death.
I'm sorry if the plot description feels a bit rushed and all over the place but that was just the way everything was presented in this film. The characters are one dimensional and the plot simply moves from one sequence to the next without feeling cohesive. This is perhaps why I felt the pace was so tedious because we never get any time to actually get to know any of the characters or their motivations. It doesn't matter how beautiful the landscape or set pieces were, the action scenes simply didn't engage me. Everything about this film felt uninspired and dull. 47 Ronin is a disgrace to Japan's classic legend and I'm sure nobody back home is proud of this film. The critic for Newsday, Rafer Guzman, described this film so well I feel the need to quote him: "47 Ronin would have been more fun if it kept swinging its sword instead of falling on it." Skip this movie, it's not as cool as the poster makes you believe it is.