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Carl Rinsch
Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki
Writing Credits:
Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini

Seize Eternity

After a treacherous warlord kills their master and banishes their kind, 47 leaderless samurai vow to seek vengeance and reclaim their honor. This band of ronin must seek help from Kai (Reeves)—an enslaved half-breed they once rejected—in their ultimate fight for redemption in a savage world of mythic and wondrous terrors. Kai becomes their most deadly weapon and the heroic inspiration for these outnumbered warriors to confront their enemy and seize eternity.

Box Office:
$175 million.
Opening Weekend
$9,910,310 on 2,689 Screens
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Video Service
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 119 min.
Price: $34.98
Release Date: 4/1/2014

• Deleted Scenes
• “Re-forging the Legend” Featurette
• “Keanu & Kai” Featurette
• “Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin” Featurette
• “Myths, Magic and Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin” Featurette
• Previews
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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47 Ronin [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 7, 2014)

Ever since the Matrix franchise wrapped up in 2003, Keanu Reeves has maintained a fairly low profile. He seems to pop up every couple of years, make an unsuccessful movie and then disappear again.

Such was the fate of 2013’s 47 Ronin, Reeves’ first effort in the action/fantasy genre since 2008’s disappointing The Day the Earth Stood Still. With a huge $175 million budget, Ronin became easily the most expensive film in Reeves’ history, but it didn’t do much at the box office – at least in the US, where Ronin pulled in a poor $38 million. It fared better overseas, but with a total worldwide gross of only $148 million, it clearly lost money.

Set in feudal Japan, Ronin mixes history and fantasy. As a youngster, half-Japanese/half-British outsider Kai (Daniel Barber) gets taken in and raised by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) of the realm Ako. Kai falls in love with Asano’s daughter Mika (Aria Maekawa) and pledges to repay his debt to his benefactors.

As an adult, Kai (Reeves) continues to serve Asano despite the continual animosity he receives from those who resent the “half-breed’s” presence. Nonetheless, he shows his skills as a talented warrior, one with a connection to a magical side as well. He also maintains a love for Mika (Ko Shibasaki) but does nothing about this because he feels she is above him.

To celebrate the arrival of shoguns to the realm, Asano plans a tournament, and Kai sees a witch he believes he witnessed during the earlier fight. His warnings go unheeded, though, and the spellcaster (Rinko Kikuchi) poisons the warrior intended to represent Ako. In disguise, Kai takes his place but this doesn’t go well and Kai brings shame to Asano.

Matters get worse from there, as visiting Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) uses the witch to infect Asano. In the midst of this spell, he harms a guest and must commit ritual suicide to redeem his honor. This leaves his lieutenant Oichi (Hiroyuki Sanada) to defend both Ako and Mika.

However, authorities place Kira in command of Ako and the new leader tosses Oishi into a pit for a year. When he emerges, he finds that all his soldiers have left Ako, and Kira’s men sold Kai into slavery. Oishi goes to find the “half-breed”, rebuild an army and reclaim Ako from the evil Kira.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve written thousands of reviews, and these flow most easily if I love or hate the project involved. When I focus on an extreme, I can dig into my opinions most naturally, as they emerge without much difficulty.

This makes my worst predicament the “meh movie”, the film that doesn’t impress me much but also that doesn’t come with terrible flaws. How much can one say about a flick that seems perfectly okay and that’s about it?

I guess we’ll find out, as this is the situation into which Ronin places me. For the most part, the film earned poor reviews, and I admit I don’t quite understand all that animosity. Some movies beg for derision, but I don’t see that here; at its very worst, Ronin remains serviceable.

Unfortunately, at its best, Ronin fails to rise above that same level of mediocrity. That’s a shame, as the basic story comes with obvious worth. Based on a famous Japanese legend, the narrative boasts plenty of room for drama and adventure if told the right way.

Ronin just can’t muster a whole lot of energy, though, as it provides a slow, sleepy take on the subject. The characters fail to develop much personality and remain fairly one-dimensional. Of course, that probably suits Reeves just fine, as his notoriously unemotional acting style fits the stoic Kai, but since most of the others show a similar lack of oomph, the movie tends to fall flat.

Ronin also comes with a less than authentic feel. Do filmmakers need to belong to a specific ethnicity if they make movies about that group? No – talented folks can create good flicks about anyone, so the absence of Japanese directors or writers didn’t need to become a fatal flaw.

That said, director Carl Rinsch and writers Chris Morgan and Hossein Amini don’t show much natural affinity for the material. Ronin feels like a samurai story told by guys who’d seen a bunch of those movies, not those with any real feel for the subject matter. Again, this doesn’t mean Ronin required Japanese filmmakers for it to work, but it did need folks with a greater level of skill to overcome potential flaws.

I admit I don’t particularly understand the decision to involve the supernatural elements in the story. Obviously these don’t fit the historical account, and they add next to nothing to the tale. The basic narrative boasts more than enough drama to entertain us; the addition of witches and magic becomes a distraction more than anything else.

Not that any of this turns Ronin into a bad movie. As I mentioned at the start, it keeps us moderately entertained as it goes. However, the film simply lacks enough energy and spark to make it anything more than mediocre.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus C-

47 Ronin appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. For the most part, the image satisfied.

A bit of softness crept into the presentation at times, but it felt like some of that resulted from an intentionally dreamy look to the photography. Those instances didn’t dominate, though, so the majority of the film appeared accurate and concise. I saw no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement seemed absent. Print flaws also never reared their ugly head, as the movie looked clean at all times.

Given that airy photographic design, tans and reds often dominated. Some brighter hues appeared at times, but those were the main colors, and they remained low-key. Within those choices, the hues appeared well-rendered. Blacks seemed dense and firm, but shadows could be a little thick; a few shots seemed just a bit too dark. All of this left Ronin as a “B” presentation.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of 47 Ronin, it worked well, as the movie presented a fairly engaging soundfield. Not surprisingly, its best moments related to the mix of action scenes. These helped open up the spectrum pretty nicely.

Otherwise, we got good stereo impressions from the music along with solid environmental material. The latter reverberated in the rear speakers to positive effect, and some unique action material popped up there as well.

No problems with audio quality occurred. Speech was always concise and natural, and I noticed no edginess or other concerns. Music seemed bright and lively. Effects showed good distinctiveness, and they offered nice low-end when appropriate. All of this created a strong sonic impression that made the movie more involving.

When we head to extras, we open with four featurettes. Re-forging the Legend goes for six minutes, 44 seconds and offers comments from director Carl Rinsch, producer Pamela Abdy, costume designer Penny Rose, visual effects supervisor Christian Manz, supervising art director Gary Freeman and actors Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada. The program looks at the source story and its adaptation, costume and production design, sets, locations and effects, stunts and action, cast and performances, and general thoughts. “Legend” covers a good variety of subjects but does so in a superficial way. It breezes through the topics quickly and lacks substance.

For a little about the actor, we go to Keanu & Kai. It runs four minutes and provides info from Reeves, Rinsch, Abdy, producer Eric McLeod and actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa. The show looks at Reeves’ role and performance. Expect a lot of praise and fluff.

Steel Fury: The Fights of 47 Ronin lasts five minutes, 54 seconds and features Rinsch, Reeves, Sanada, stunt coordinator Gary Powell, co-writer Chris Morgan and actor Neil Fingleton. As expected, “Fury” discusses the movies stunts and action. This never becomes especially insightful, but it throws out a few good notes and becomes a decent piece.

Finally, we get the seven-minute, 35-second Myths, Magic and Monsters: The FX of 47 Ronin. It boasts notes from Rinsch, Morgan, Manz, Powell, Reeves, Fingleton, Abdy, stunt rider Dauren Zhunussov, prosthetic makeup artist Barrie Gower, and visual effects producer Garv Thorp. To the surprise of no one, “Magic” covers the various effects used in Ronin. It follows the template from “Fury”, so expect a reasonable exploration of the subject matter.

Four Deleted Scenes occupy a total of seven minutes, 45 seconds and give us “Mika Regrets Her Love for Kai” (1:43), “Mika Attempts to Poison Lord Kira” (1:13), “Oishi Attempts to Buy Kai from the Dutch Captain” (2:40) and “Isogai Is Entranced By the Witch” (1:09). These offer minor character moments that do little to embellish material already in the final film.

The disc opens with ads for Lone Survivor, Sabotage, The Boxtrolls and Ride Along. Previews also includes promos for Oblivion, Battleship, the Jurassic Park trilogy, Battlestar Galactica and The Bourne Legacy. No trailer for Ronin appears here.

A second disc gives us a DVD copy of Ronin. It includes “Re-forging the Legend” and the deleted scenes but lacks the other extras.

With 47 Ronin, we get a competent telling of an epic adventure. This becomes enough to keep us moderately entertained but the movie never lives up to its potential. The Blu-ray brings us good picture and audio as well as a few minor bonus materials. I think this release serves the film well, but the flick doesn’t work as well as it should.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.9 Stars Number of Votes: 20
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