47 Ronin is a fictional account of a real life group of samurai that lived in 18th century Japan. This fantasy action film, which was produced by Universal Studios, and directed by Carl Erik Rinsch, stars Mr. Matrix himself, Keanu Reeves along with Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, and Rinko Kikuchi.
I swear if my grandsons could move to Japan, they would… but until they can, they watch and read everything Japanese. When 47 Ronin opened on Christmas Day, guess who was dragged to the movies with Josh and Nathan on December 26th? Yep, it was little old me. They drag me to all the Martial arts films. Did I like the film? Find out after the jump.
Kai (Keanu Reeves) the offspring of a British sailor and a Japanese peasant woman was left in the swamps to die. Half breeds, especially illegitimate ones, were frowned upon during that time period. Kai is found and reared by some brutal mystical creatures that resemble lizards. Years later, the young Kai is taken in as a servant by the kindly Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) and his young daughter, Mika (Ko Shibasaki). Although Mika loves Kai, the samurai warriors that serve Lord Asano shun the half breed. The loudest objector to Kai’s presence on Lord Asano’s land is Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), the leader of Asano’s samurai.
When news that an envoy of the Emperor is coming to Lord Asano’s home, a reception is arranged to honor Shogun Tsunayoshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). One of the guests invited is the evil Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch Mizuki (Rinko Kikuchi). Lord Kira wants Lord Asano’s lands and his daughter as a bride and he will do everything in his power to obtain both.
With the aid of Mizuki, Lord Kira arranges a series of misfortunes to occur which not only has Kai sold into slavery, but shames Lord Asano in front of the Shogun. Lord Asano is forced to commit seppuku (formal suicide) and Mika obliged to marry Lord Kira at the end of the year. Lord Asano’s death leaves his samurai without a leader. Oishi and his samurai are now called Ronin. The samurai are not only disgraced before all the people, but they are also forced off the land by Lord Kira. Lord Asano’s lands are in ruins and his people mistreated by the soldiers of Lord Kira. Oishi is thrown into a pit for one year. When he is released, Kira thinks Oishi is a broken man. Lord Kira is mistaken.
This lady would be perfect in a Disney movie as a wicked witch; quite nasty. She’s a shape shifter extraordinaire, be it spider or dragon. She spends her time spying for Lord Kira or terrifying poor Mika who is held captive until the arrival of her wedding day.
Honor is very important to the Japanese people and especially to the samurai, who lived their daily lives under a strict code of loyalty, sacrifice, persistence and honor. Oishi is honor bound to restore the good name of his dead Lord. His first act after he’s released from the pit is to find Kai before searching for the other samurai. Kai leads the samurai to the dangerous swamps and to the mystical creatures that saved him when he was abandoned as a baby. These creatures don’t care too much for mankind, but at Kai’s insistence, they give the much needed weapons to the samurai for their battle against Lord Kira.
I absolutely loved this movie and I plan on seeing it again. The acting was superb, the clothing and scenery; beautiful. Although Keanu Reeves is the star as Kai, the story was really about Oishi and the other samurai. Mizuki is not only stunning as the evil witch and frightful dragon, but she is a delectable villain. I won’t tell you how the movie ends, but only that it ended by the samurai code of honor. Rumor has it that Universal chose Japanese actors to star with Keanu Reeves to add a more authentic feel to the film. I would say that they succeeded.
On a side note, the AMC 8 in Deptford, New Jersey now features reclining seats in their theatres, and I must admit; it was extremely comfortable. I might wear my pajamas and slippers the next time I go to see this movie.