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.
Pierce Brosnan was named the sexiest man alive by People magazine in its issue released Thursday, Reuters reports. Previous recipients of the title include Brad Pitt, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and George Clooney. Benjamin Bratt took honors for the sexiest single guy alive and Mexican president Vicente Fox was named sexiest world leader. Brosnan, who starts working on his fourth Bond movie in January, married his long-term girlfriend Keely Shaye Smith in Ireland in August.
Geena Davis is expecting a child in April with husband Reza Jarrahy, Reuters reports. Davis, 45, and Jarrahy, 30, were married in September. This is the actress's fourth marriage. She was previously married to restaurant manager Richard Emmolo, actor Jeff Goldblum and director Renny Harlin.
Dudley Moore received his Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) award from the Prince of Wales at London's Buckingham Palace on Friday, BBC News reports. Moore, who currently lives in New Jersey, flew to London this week to receive his award. The actor suffers from a rare brain condition called progressive supranuclear palsy and attended the ceremony in a wheelchair.
Actor Albert Hague died Monday in a hospital near Los Angeles after suffering from cancer, BBC News reports. The 81-year-old actor played the bad-tempered music teacher Mr. Shorofsky in the 1980 film Fame and for five years on the television series.
Robert Downey Jr. appeared in court for a progress report on Thursday and thanked a judge for allowing him to continue treatment in a live-in drug rehabilitation program, Reuters reports. Downey, who was sentenced to a year in a drug treatment center after pleading no contest to drug charges in July, tested negative to all drug tests.
Former Baywatch babe Yasmine Bleeth
was charged on Friday with two counts of possession of cocaine (a four-year felony) and one count of operating a vehicle under the influence of narcotics (a misdemeanor) in Romulus, Mich., AP reports. The 33-year-old actress was arrested Sept. 12 after police investigating an accident involving her car found cocaine in her purse. Charges also stem from a subsequent search of Bleeth's hotel room. Bleeth pleaded innocent and posted a $10,000 bond. A hearing is set for Nov. 30. The actress had no comment.
A stunt double for Robert De Niro was charged Wednesday with two counts of criminal impersonation and released on $100 bail. According to The Associated Press, Joseph Manuella told Vietnam veterans in Port Jervis, N.Y., that he was filming a documentary about the war so they would lend him props. He also received discounts on lodging and filmmaking materials and even acquired a credit card in De Niro's name. The former New York City firefighter worked with De Niro in The Fan and Great Expectations.
The plot thickened in the Screen Actors Guild election debacle Thursday after polling administrator Sequoia Voting Systems revealed that there were 260 more ballots counted in New York than deposited at the official post office box by union voters. Sequoia executive Robbin Johnson blamed this new discrepancy on the U.S. Postal Service and denied any stuffing of the ballot box. Johnson already admitted to removing signature lines from 24,800 New York ballots, Variety reports.
Howard Stern's production company is developing a first-run syndicated comedy for CBS, Variety reports. Kane will center on a woman who returns to her husband and kids in the Deep South after a long absence. The deal comes as the syndicated Howard Stern Radio Show, which has been in repeats on CBS since August, goes off the air this weekend.
Mick Jagger, whose new album Goddess in the Doorway hits stores next week, performed at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles on Thursday to promote the release, Reuters reports. Concertgoers consisted mostly of young models, who were paid $100 each to surround the small stage and shriek and claw at Jagger's legs. Celebrities in attendance included Meg Ryan, Billy Crudup, David Spade and Heath Ledger.
Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney will team up for Joel and Ethan Coen's next project for Universal Pictures, Variety reports. Intolerable Cruelty is described as a Howard Hawks-style old-Hollywood glamour picture in which Clooney and Zeta-Jones will play bitter rivals who fall in love.
Barbie maker Mattel, Inc. challenged 20 Hong Kong students to come up with the creative outfits for the 42-year-old doll, Reuters reports. The most eye-catching design unveiled for the media Friday was an off-the-shoulder, backless dinner gown which showcased a stunning dragon tattoo running down Barbie's back. Mattel has no plans to mass-produce the "Tattoo Barbie" designed by Hong Kong Polytechnic University student Wingo Wong.
Adam Sandler will develop a pilot for NBC starring Jon Lovitz and Norm Macdonald, targeted for fall 2002. According to Variety, Lovitz and Macdonald will play mismatched roommates. The comedy will be written by Tim Herlihy (Big Daddy