Reviewed by D.T.
47 Ronin ventures to tell one of the great Japanese legends in a modern light. The tale goes that Lord Asano was tricked by Lord Kira into committing a terribly dishonorable crime. Because of it, he was forced to commit seppuku, a form of Japanese ritualistic suicide, in order to regain his honor and pay for the crime at the same time. In the aftermath of such an event, Lord Asano’s faithful samurai warriors, who are now ronin, or exiled samurai without a lord, learn of the deceit and form a plan to avenge their Lord, knowing full well that it is a death sentence for a samurai or ronin to practice vengeance. They loyally avenge their Lord and kill Lord Kira, bring the treachery to light, and are given the sentence of seppuku as well and be buried along with Lord Asano.
The story is considered an example of bushido, of Japanese chivalry and feudal loyalty. The movie, 47 Ronin, seeks not to twist the story, but expand it by adding in elements of Japanese folklore. Kai (Keanu Reeves) is found at the beginning of the movie, a child raised by demons and alone in the forest. He is raised by Lord Asano, who sees the morality and strength in Kai that only he and his daughter, Mika, can appreciate. Kai must fight to control himself daily as he is persecuted by others during his service to his Lord. When Lord Kira and Shogun Tokugawa (Emperor of Japan) arrive, Kai is the only one to identify that something is wrong, and that one of the Emperor’s servants is probably a witch. Because of his questionable heritage, Kai is doubted and ignored, which costs Lord Asano his life. Kai then joins up and becomes one of the 47 Ronin, eventually earning his own honor and his place aside Lord Asano in the grave. He defeats the witch and helps Lord Asano’s head samurai, Oishi, complete the plan for revenge.
The movie itself is excellent. There is an abundance of action, as you would expect, as Kai, Oishi and crew track down Lord Kira and his accomplices, and eventually exact their revenge. That being said, this movie is definitely not for children. Seppuku is not exactly easily explained. The action and violence, however, do not detract from what seems to be the second plot of the movie: the redemption and humanization of Kai. Keanu Reeves’ form of reserving emotion in his acting helps show the struggle and repression that Kai must face on a daily basis, even in his love for Mika. Before the end, he finds that he has earned not only the company, but the respect of his fellow ronin, and the love of Mika. Despite some violence and some awkward acting, this movie is exciting, artistic, and very enjoyable. It creates a very interesting view of the time period and of some of Japan’s mythology.
Check out these fun scenes from 47 Ronin!
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