May 22, 2015


Movies

Code of honour, kiss of death

A JAPANESE legend with roots in reality, the tale of the 47 ronin has been adapted into just about every medium imaginable, from ballet to movies to graphic novels. Now Keanu Reeves stars in 47 Ronin, a North Americanized, or perhaps internationalized version, of one of Japan's most treasured tales.

It's the story of Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada), leader of a group of samurai living in peace under their master, Lord Asano (Min Tanaka). But when Asano is killed by Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his nameless Witch (Rinko Kikuchi), the samurai become masterless ronin scattered throughout the countryside. To regain their honour and avenge their master, they must kill Kira, even though it may mean their own death.

Where does that leave Reeves? He's an add-on to the story, a half-breed named Kai who was raised by demons. He is mistreated, Cinderella-style, by the samurai, until the now-masterless Oishi needs his help. Slowly but surely, Kai earns the soldiers' respect.

The film can be a hoot, with some zippy battles staged by director Carl Rinsch, and a script by several writers that works better than expected. But it also feels like a somewhat botched attempt by Hollywood to bridge the cultural gap between the North American and overseas box offices. Nearly the entire cast is Japanese -- and nearly all excellent -- yet they speak English.

What's most impressive about 47 Ronin -- its strict adherence to the ancient Japanese honour code of bushido -- is also what finally drags it down. The themes of honour and death that run through the movie may not instinctively resonate with North American audiences. It would have been more fun if 47 Ronin kept swinging its sword instead of falling on it.

-- Newsday

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2013 D3

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 22 2:26 pm

Harper not interested in TV consortium debate wfp.to/RTr

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 22 2:20 pm

Report published on dentistry scandal wfp.to/RTw

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 22 2:18 pm

Gimli's iconic Viking statue gets a fresh appearance wfp.to/RTB

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 22 2:02 pm

Suspect sought after teen assaulted in Wolseley wfp.to/RT4

Winnipeg Free Press | @WinnipegNews

May 22 1:34 pm

More alleged victims come forward in sex-abuse case involving local dentist wfp.to/RTu

Scroll down to load more

Top