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232 of 253 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Solid Movie
This movie is based on a classic Japanese story (see "Chushingura") about the disgrace of a daimyo who must kill himself to retain his honor and what his now-masterless samurai (called ronin) do to avenge his death. Though this version has added Keanu Reeves as a "half-breed" and witches and demons, the movie is solid and says a lot about the...
Published 14 months ago by James E. Carroll

versus
45 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful on the Surface
I went into 47 Ronin wanting to geek out on some samurai action. As a
practitioner of Iaido, I like to see sword play done right. I'm also a
big fan of fantasy, and based on the trailer, I did expect that element
to be strong. Sure, this portrayal of the 47 Ronin is only loosely
related to the traditional story, but I'm cool with that. It's almost...
Published 13 months ago by Douglas Wynne


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232 of 253 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, Solid Movie, January 5, 2014
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This review is from: 47 Ronin (DVD)
This movie is based on a classic Japanese story (see "Chushingura") about the disgrace of a daimyo who must kill himself to retain his honor and what his now-masterless samurai (called ronin) do to avenge his death. Though this version has added Keanu Reeves as a "half-breed" and witches and demons, the movie is solid and says a lot about the centrality of the Japanese code of bushido to the nation.

Unlike another reviewer who chose to discuss and judge the values of that time rather than the movie itself, those values must be respected as an historical accuracy. That review would be much like giving "Gone With the Wind" one star for the South's reliance on slavery. One must deal with those values, and one must judge the film based on how good it is, not on the moral code of the times. This is a good action movie with some historical accuracy.

This movie stays fairly close to the original, adds in beautiful sets, action and adventure, and ends as it should.
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203 of 227 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Asian/American Masterpiece, February 3, 2014
This review is from: 47 Ronin (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD with UltraViolet) (Blu-ray)
Gorgeously shot, vividly imagined, heavy and heartfelt - this movie should not be skipped by true fantasy-adventure fans.

I can see why mainstream America and the media misunderstood it - Asian protagonists, brooding tone, tragic romance, a plot driven by foreign ideals like "honor" and "shame." People with no exposure to a traditional Japanese world might scratch their head at the notion of seppuku, or leaving your wife to avenge lost honor, but if you are worldly enough to embrace different cultures and values, you will be rewarded by this richly imagined film.

Thematically, this movie is smart. First, the film is refreshingly devoid of any irony or post-modern humor that can weaken the modern blockbuster, which always seems to try to be all things to all people. So while the plot may be simple, it is still told in surprising ways. One can never entirely predict the next thing to happen throughout the movie, another novel way the movie is better than expected.

And the execution of this revenge yarn is layered with heavier topics like class, morality, equality and freedom. One of the two main protagonists is a low-class "half-breed" (actually half-demon) while the rest are pure Japanese. This intriguing character faithfully serves his masters while tolerating their cruelty, finally proving by the end to be transcendentally superior to all of their humiliation and ignominy. With a movie about slavery likely to take home Best Picture for 2013, it's a shame that this particular genre film is so easily dismissed by critics although it also delves into the difficult subject with an insightful and intelligent perspective. But again, the average member of the audience is probably a little taken aback by their hero grovelling for mercy to a holy emperor, when the typical American badass hero would simply shoot first.

The film is also a triumph on the technical end. If the wild monsters, ghosts, demons and witches don't appeal to you visually - all rendered in sleek new ways heretofore unseen in an American film - then perhaps the lush backgrounds and intricate costumes will entertain you in even the slowest scenes. Score, cinematography, editing, sound, acting - the movie is exquisitely made and best enjoyed on the biggest screen.

So despite being oddly pro-suicide, the movie is simply astounding. It is a genuine cinematic masterpiece, especially for its unique historical Japanese backdrop. To the right pallet, there are few movies better at what they do than this.
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140 of 163 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic story with fantasy elements, December 25, 2013
By 
JYK (Washington State) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 47 Ronin (DVD)
When I saw the short trailer, I was worried that the film might be too campy or, worse, a twisted adaptation of a classic tale to create a vehicle for Keanu Reeves à la 'The Last Samurai'. I needn't have worried. Keanu's presence as Kai, a half-Japanese boy found and reared by a kind lord, is woven in seamlessly, and the other excellent actors, including Hiroyuki Sanada and Asano Tadanobu, are given equal opportunities to shine and show their chops. And kudos to the director for respecting the story and ending on an appropriate note instead of the usual Hollywood finale (i.e happily ever after for everyone). It almost felt like I was watching a live action anime with drama and the familiar fantasy elements. A stellar adaptation.
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95 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars if you love mythology and historical fiction you'll love this movie!, December 30, 2013
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This review is from: 47 Ronin (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD with UltraViolet) (Blu-ray)
This movie tells the historical story of the 47 ronin with a magical, mythical, fun aspect added to it.

It is very exciting and moving. The loyalty of the ronin to their fallen lord is inspiring.

The love story between two of the characters was touching as well without being overbearing, it did not hijack the plot which happens in many films. They also stayed true to feudal japanese societal rules to a greater degree than many movies.

For example some movies set in feudal japan will have a peasant "half breed" (keanu reeves character) somehow have status and respect from samurai which is highly unlikely bordering on absurd. In this film the half breed is considered much lower than the samurai and he accepts this. Its not until they become ronin that they get closer to equals and then the half breed starts talking back instead of just quietly accepting his lower status. This is much more reasonable, helps plot development, and is smart of the writer/director to understand the feel of feudal japan.

The special effects and mythical elements are very well done! There is a magical witch and a few spirits and creatures from classical japanese mythology.

The fight scenes are really well done and well choreographed.

I have nothing bad to say about this movie other than it could have been longer! Its already two hours but could have used another to give background on the samurai's lives and the elements of japanese mythology.

I already knew these things going in so hearing the name of a japanese mythological entity or when a person is asked to be anothers "second" for sepukku, i was primed for what came next. However the person who saw it with me had no idea what these things were and is in fact the one who gave the critique that it could have been longer to give more detail on these points.

Overall amazing film. Its now on my top ten list!
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45 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful on the Surface, January 12, 2014
This review is from: 47 Ronin (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD with UltraViolet) (Blu-ray)
I went into 47 Ronin wanting to geek out on some samurai action. As a
practitioner of Iaido, I like to see sword play done right. I'm also a
big fan of fantasy, and based on the trailer, I did expect that element
to be strong. Sure, this portrayal of the 47 Ronin is only loosely
related to the traditional story, but I'm cool with that. It's almost a
shame that the screen writers tethered their cart to a well known tale,
because I think the world could use more fantasy epics adorned with the
rich cultural trappings of feudal Japan. A story liberated from the
traditional structure entirely might have spread its wings a little
more. If The Lord of the Rings can put magic and monsters in a world
inspired by a version of Medieval Britain, then why not give the same
treatment to the knights and dragons of the East?

Overall I was entertained. The mash up of witchcraft, demon monks,
monsters, and the samurai code of honor is a chemistry that mostly
works, and the film is beautiful to look at. The costumes are
gorgeous*, the sets, cinematography and effects all feel cohesive and
immersive, and the pace is brisk. Clocking in at just over two hours,
it might have been a little too brisk, because where 47 Ronin falls
flat for me is in the acting and character development.

The shape-shifting witch, (the true villain of the story) has some of
the coolest effects, and could have been a thrilling character. Her
concept and design were great. But I couldn't take the character
seriously, as she was totally undermined by bad casting and weak
acting. And Kai, the mysterious half-breed sort-of-central hero played
by Keanu Reeves, suffers from a similar lack of depth and development.
He feels grafted onto the story as a plot device, a cynical way to give
Western audiences a Caucasian to relate to.

The canvas may be 3D, but most of the dialog felt 2D to me. I read in
Variety that the lines for the Japanese actors were simplified because
they had to read the English phonetically, but at times it feels like
they did the same thing for Keanu.

Hiroyuki Sanada makes up for a lot of this in the role of Oishi,
arguably the main character, even though you won't find his face on the
posters. I've enjoyed his acting in everything I've seen him in so far
(check out The Twilight Samurai for something more authentic) and he
really carries this version of 47 Ronin on his back. The story of his
quest for revenge feels like it has some weight. The risk and cost to
his family actually resonates, but isn't given enough time at center
stage because we're distracted by a forbidden love subplot between Kai
and the daimyo's daughter Mika. This love story is an element that ends
up lacking that same resonance, in spite of overwrought attempts to
invoke passion simply by viewing the relationship through a lens tinted
with the beauty and poetry of old Japan.

Forgive my harping on the comparison, but if the Hobbit movies are too
long (and I think they are, much as I loved the LOTR trilogy) then 47
Ronin may well be too short. Other unfulfilled potentials included the
story of how Kai trains and acquires his sword skills on the Dutch
island of Djema where we get a brief look at a cool character tattooed
with a skull face. Unfortunately, this guy is just another element that
teases us in the poster and trailer, but gets little screen time.

After reading the awesome novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob DeZoet
by David Mitchell, I was hungry to see more of Djema, and hoping that
the filmmakers might exploit the potential for bringing out some of
Kai's backstory there, or at least digging into the rich juxtaposition
of cultures offered by the Dutch island, but no. Didn't happen. By the
way, if you want a story that blends samurai culture and Japanese
history with subtle sorcery, do yourself a favor and read that book. It
does a much better job in the romance department as well.

By the end of the film Kai's character is as much of an enigma as when
we first met him crashing out of the forest with claw scars on his
head. An unsatisfying journey to be sure. But I do have to give the
filmmakers some credit for keeping to the traditional ending, and
guaranteeing that there won't be a sequel.

*Beautiful as some of the clothes and armor were, they did lack the
feel of things broken in by use. For a close up look at some authentic
samurai armor, there's a gallery of photos my wife took at the Samurai
Arms and Armor exhibit at the Boston MFA earlier this year at dougwynne.com
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saw this movie in the theater and enjoyed every second. Worth adding to my digital collection., March 19, 2014
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This movie is fun to watch!

It is somewhat true that the actors/actresses are all the same across the samurai stylized genre, but a unique use of cinematography and the lead role, played by Keanu Reeves, set this one apart from the rest.

Gotta give Keanu Reeves props on this one, he's the perfect person to be playing the serious minded role of a outcast turned Ronin.

Ronin defined as being a Samurai without a master, normally a very low rank, only slightly better then a cutthroat or mercenary.

*Note - A lot of the rotten tomato reviews where negative and complaining mostly about the lack of good acting, but try to keep in mind that the characters are supposed to be professional minded, follow very strict customs and behavioral standards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars OK but could have been better, May 2, 2014
This review is from: 47 Ronin (Amazon Instant Video)
47 Ronin tells the fictional tale of a band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.

Having not really watched the previews of the movie, I kind of expected something a bit different and maybe more true to the real tale of the 47 Ronin. Not that the movie is bad as it does have a decent fantasy tale that has demons and witches along with ancient samurai battling it out but truly not enough of it. It also seems that there are some things missing in the story as if left on the cutting room floor and unfortunately parts of the story that seem to drag along and keeps going on and on. For me, the ending was a prime example of that, you think it is the last scene and nope, there is another and another and another and detracted from the movie a bit. Reeves channels his inner Matrix as unfortunately it seems that's the only character type he can play with the monotone voice lack of emotion type character. I liked Reeves in Matrix and even Constantine to a lesser extent, but he can't seem to do any other way of acting.

One thing I will give credit to the movie though, the scenery was beautiful and the sets and effects well done. It was actually of the things that kept me watching.

Although this movie was ok, it definitely could have been better and has too many shortfalls to make it a higher rating. A shame though as it has a lot of potential.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not unwatchable., May 17, 2014
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Here are a few givens before I start:

1. I have read the book 47 Ronin, visited the gravesite several times in Minato-ku, and my main hobby is Japanese culture.
2. Hiroyuki Sanada is one of my favorite actors working today.
3. Keanu Reeves, well, no.

When I heard a few years ago that Reeves was going to make this a movie, failure was my first thought. I kept reading about delays, then no news, then more delays. A premier date was finally set and I told a couple of my friends to keep that date open. I also warned them it was going to suck. When the date arrived, it didn't even show anywhere in my area. Another bad sign.

Fast forward to a release date on 3D Blu-ray and I placed my order. I have to say that its not the greatest movie by a longshot, but I didn't think it was horrible be any means. It looks very good in 3D and that is its strongest point. Not stunning, but good.

Some of the acting is a little flat. Its always hard to watch Japanese actors who are not native English speakers tackle the language difference. Sanada-san does well but it seemed a little stretched for the other cast members, some of whom are big stars in Japan.

My big fear was that the much loved in Japan story of the 47 Ronin was going to get butchered right to the bone. This is a fantasy movie and I was surprised that they were able to apply the main points of the story to the movie. Of course there is the required for a movie love story, but surprisingly it doesn't get in the way of what this movie is about.

Its not the best but I think if you like fantasy movies its worth giving it a watch. I'd give 2 ˝ stars instead of 3 but that option isn't available. Watch it in Blu-ray if at all possible, 3D really makes it better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amusing and completely unfaithful Hollywood rendition of the 47 Ronin story., March 25, 2014
By 
M.— (Seattle, WA USA) - See all my reviews
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Set pieces of predictable action told in a straight forward way. (does anyone know how to set up a camera angle besides 'level' these days. Fun popcorn movie for those at least 10 years old and above.

The original story has been embroidered to add in a fantasy element that plays out across the story from beginning to end. The posters would lead you to believe certain charters are featured more prevalently in the film, which was somewhat disappointing.

•WARNING TO PARENTS… this movie contains scenes of seppuku (ritual suicide). While the camera looks away at the crucial moment, little is left as to what is taking place.

Worth a rental if you're un the mood for some FANTASY SAMURAI ACTION.

BTW —The actual story of the 47 Ronin would make a great film! And it wouldn't even require computer generated scenes… how novel would that be!?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 47 ronin, May 4, 2014
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This review is from: 47 Ronin (Amazon Instant Video)
While this version loosely holds to the historical "legend" of the Loyal Retainers, it may best be described as "47 Ronin meet Pirates of the Caribbean". For a better rendition try Chushingura. The acting in the Keanu Reeves version is well done, however, and there is some attempt at character development. Too many fantasy elements and extraneous storylines were added (romantic involvement between the "half-breed" Kai and Mika Asano, the proverbial dragon lady, and the demon monks) which detract from a tale of sacrifice, honor and duty. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half, but the "soul" of Japanese culture (in particular the Bushido Code) resides in Chushingura.
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47 Ronin (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD with UltraViolet)
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