Actors: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Ko Shibasaki
Director: Carl Rinsch
Writers: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini
Producers: Pamela Abdy, Eric McLeod, Scott Stuber, Chris Fenton, Walter Hamada
Format: Color, Widescreen
Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), English (Dolby Digital 5.1), English (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
Subtitles: French, Spanish, English
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Studio: Universal Studios
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Digital Copy Expiration Date: May 2, 2016
Run Time: 138 minutes
Perhaps it is my developed love and understanding of samurai films which helped appreciate at least a portion of what 47 Ronin was attempting to do, because I can’t quite fathom why certain critics hated this film so much. Even Keanu Reeves does little to destroy this solemn story. While it is certainly not without faults, there are as many clear assets in the filmmaking and the well-told tale to be ignored. Along with classic cinematography and an age-old story from 18th Century
Japan, this film is a sincere attempt at a Hollywood samurai film. Like The Last Samurai, it falls short in the insistence of doing certain
things the ‘Hollywood’ way.
The biggest of these errors in 47 Ronin comes from the refusal to allow actors to speak in their native tongue, resulting in a lot of great Japanese actors speaking stiff broken English. The ignorance and laziness of a group of Americans unwilling to read subtitles while they shovel popcorn and milk duds down their gullet led to this decision, because Hollywood works as a business that tries to sell its product to as many people as possible, leading to all the flaccid film-going experiences halfway intelligent viewers will have each summer season. What saves 47 Ronin from complete disaster is the classic narrative and the visual experience. The real tragedy is the knowledge that they actually filmed all of the scenes in Japanese as well. If only that version was available alongside this one, this could have been a Blu-ray worth recommending.
The story is nothing new or unfamiliar to anyone of Japanese heritage, and has been adapted into a film six times prior to 47 Ronin. It seems strange that first time director Carl Rinsch was chosen to direct this massively budgeted adaptation from Universal Studios, and long before the release there was news of studio tinkering. At two hours it may feel excessive to those popcorn grazers, but I am certain that there are 20 or 30 additional minutes that could have been left in for better character development. These moments would have helped the film even more had they been spoken in Japanese, I have no doubt.
The Blu-ray combo release includes a DVD and digital copy of the film, as well as some exclusive bonus features. The extras included only on the Blu-ray disc are three featurettes; one about the two leading actors, the fight choreography, and the unique special effects in the film. The special features also include deleted scenes and an additional featurette about the story that has been adapted so many times, and how this version tried to be unique.
Entertainment Value: 7/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 5/10
Special Features: 6/10