The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
Remember when we first heard the news of Roman Polanski’s God of Carnage and its cast? And we were a little skeptical and surprised that Matt Dillon was a part of it? Well someone seems to have been listening to me because Dillon is out and John C. Reilly is in!
Honestly, I couldn’t be more pleased with this bit of casting news. How awesome is John C. Reilly? He can do mumblecore comedy as in Cyrus. He can do straight comedy like in Step Brothers. He can do absurd comedy like Dr. Steve Brule. And he can do the dramatic too and since I can’t really differentiate the different types of drama, we’ll just make a blanket statement that he’s good and remind you that he was in Days of Thunder.
Now we have to figure out who Reilly will be paired off with. Our choices in the matter are Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster. Honestly, I see it going toward Foster because the Winslet and Christoph Waltz makes slightly more sense but I actually want to see Reilly and Winslet paired up. For some reason that makes me laugh. But who am I kidding, Polanski is a crazy man. He could pair up Waltz and Reilly. Its not like the man could harm his reputation further.
John C. Reilly's Phone Troubles: Late Last Night
Last night, John C. Reilly talked to Jay Leno about Australian animals that like to eat body parts. But those guys aren’t even the most dangerous. Turns out, koala bears are terribly scary! And kangaroos, that trick you into liking them until you run out of treats to give them.
And then he told Jay about a time when his arms fell asleep and he couldn't answer the phone. So what does he do? Use a bluetooth device? Can't, this was probably in the seventies. Could he have put the call on speaker phone? Nope, because seriously, the seventies didn’t do anything good for us except create the concept of anonymous sex. So again, what does he do? Watch and find out.
Jon Stewart took time out of his busy schedule of beating his female staff members and stapling their fingers together until they give him good ideas to make up for the fact they have lady parts (I’m only kidding – I’m on team Daily Show) to talk about how NASA people are “reaching out” to the Muslim world. Not only did this send Conservative networks into overdrive, it got them talking like Raggedy Ann.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cWish You Weren't Herewww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
And John Oliver talked about how Queen Elizabeth II came to New York City for the first time in more than thirty years. But what was the point? After that much time, one would think she’d just stop caring about us altogether after pretending to for so long.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10cThe Crumpets Take Manhattanwww.thedailyshow.comDaily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party
Stephen Colbert talked about how President Obama was photoshopped by The Economist! That’s right! Obama’s so popular his body isn’t just getting inserted into pictures with topless college students on their summer vacations!
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cThe Economist Photoshops Obama's Picturewww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News
And if you’re single and ready to mingle, consider heading over to BeautifulPeople.com, a dating site that Stephen Colbert strongly endorses. But now, its creators have invented another site offers sperm and eggs for purchase so your offspring will be as beautiful as the mate you couldn’t find, or had in front of your nose but rejected because he left crumbs in your bed.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30cFormula 401: Beauty From My Beastwww.colbertnation.comColbert Report Full Episodes2010 ElectionFox News