(An edited version of this was firs published in The New Indian Express)
Has there been a Keanu Reeves film where he has had more than one grand total facial muscle to move and express himself? It’s always one single bland expression for every situation. In 47 Ronin directed by Carl Rinsch – a fictitious account of the Japanese story of the revenge of the Forty Seven Ronin – Reeves plays Kai an illegitimate child of British-Japanese lovers taken into the care of samurai Lord Asano and his family. The film in addition to the legendary story adds an unconvincing love story between Kai and Lord Asano’s daughter Mika, and some fantasy elements to the make the film 3D.
It helps Reeves that he’s not the only one with a one note performance. Rather he has tough competition on who can be more wooden. Hiroyuki Sanada plays Oishi the leader of the ronin when they are left without a samurai leader after Lord Asano is killed. He gathers the members of his troupe though not much time is spent on how exactly he goes about this and why these people are left alone by the sinister Lord Kira. Kai meanwhile rots in a slave town fighting giants and trolls that don’t really belong in this movie. The dismal performances are tested even further by banal dialogs. They are all delivered with that serious finality in voice as if everything is at stake when the direction is such that it is listless and nothing is absolutely at stake. It is also extremely weird after many cult Japanese samurai films to watch all the characters speak in English. There is no harmony between the setting, the story, the characters and the direction and after about ten minutes of initial action, it is an Olympian achievement if you remain awake.
47 Ronin ranks right up there in the list of most soporific films of the year. There isn’t a good performance. There isn’t any form of storytelling. There isn’t any character that you’d actually invest in. What can be said when even the fantasy parts lack imagination?