Pitched as a labour of love for cinema’s most eternally youthful leading man, Keanu (“I know Kung-Fu”) Reeves, 47 Ronin has finally shown some real and highly promising signs of life after production delays knocked the film back from its initial November 2012 release date. Loosely based around the infamous true story of the 18th century Samurai who willingly condemned themselves to self-inflicted death to avenge their master, the tale has become a crux of both Japanese cinematic storytelling and campfire folklore.
After their leader Asano is slain by the malevolent Lord Kira, the group of Ronin recruit Reeves’ half- blood outcast of English and Japanese descent, Kai, who is also pretty handy with sharp objects, to aid them in their vengeful quest for Kira’s head and honour. Though essentially derived from traditional ancient-Japanese tales, 47 Ronin’s adoption of various fantastical elements looks to set it apart from the numerous underwhelming and ponderous fantasy epics that were unleashed upon cinemagoers in the wake of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy’s deserved success. Pitting Reeve’s and his forty-six allies against the most insurmountable of odds, including vast armies and foes cast of not only skin and bone but magic, fire, and their greatest fears, the pictures high-octane battle sequences appear to be both satisfyingly intense and intricately choreographed with some breath-taking CGI eye-candy. That being said Reeves and director Carl Erik Rinsch’ stout dedication to a degree of authenticity is well documented, even extending to filming scenes twice, once in Japanese and then English to encourage cast familiarity with the script. The pair also insisted that the Christmas blockbuster’s cast predominantly consist of Japanese actors rather than familiar Hollywood box-office draws.
Fans of Takashi Miike’s violent and dazzling 13 Assassins (2010) and the rich history of Samurai cinema in general should no doubt take notice as 47 Ronin currently looks a cut above your typical fantasy epic. A brooding beat heavy soundtrack, a dark and adult tone to storytelling and sumptuous costume and set design to rival any dynasty’s trappings will undoubtedly place this multi-million dollar hybrid of fearless eastern temperament and western big-screen grandiosity in contention for the most accomplished epic yarn of recent years.