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.
Top Story: "Survivor" Finalists Get Engaged
The Sunday night two-hour season finale of CBS' Survivor All-Stars reeked of The Bachelor--with a little American Idol thrown in. After the final four contestants were whittled down to two and before host Jeff Probst announced the $1 million winner live from Madison Square Garden in New York, finalists "Boston Rob" Mariano and Amber Brkich got engaged. In what could easily go down as the cheesiest moment in reality TV history, Mariano pulled out an engagement ring and proposed to Brkich, who was sporting a chic "I (heart) Rob" T-shirt. "We didn't even care who was going to win," Brkich told The Associated Press today. "We knew we both had each other for the rest of our lives." And the jackpot probably helped sweeten the moment, too: Brkich beat Mariano by a 4-3 vote. But the show isn't over yet folks. The network announced it was calling on fans to vote one of the losing 17 contestants of Survivor All-Stars a second million-dollar prize, which will be handed out on a live telecast Thursday night.
Anti-Camcording Law Nabs First Pirate
A Los Angeles-area man was sent to jail for 42 days in the first sentencing under California's new anti-camcording law, which was enacted Jan. 1. Reuters reports Ruben Moreno, 34, was also given three years' probation and ordered to forfeit his camcorder during sentencing at Los Angeles Superior Court May 3. According to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, Moreno was caught taping The Alamo at the Pacific Winnetka Theater in Los Angeles April 12 after a projectionist noticed the light from his video camera. The sighting was confirmed through night vision goggles.
Rapper 50 Cent in Scuffle
Police in Springfield, Mass., had to break up a shoving match early Saturday morning at the Hippodrome club after rapper 50 Cent and his entourage jumped from the stage during a surprise appearance and scuffled with the audience, the AP reports. According to the club's co-owner, 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis Jackson, jumped off the stage about 10 minutes into his performance after someone in the crowd flung water at him. The rapper then got back on stage to finish his song before exiting the club with his entourage. Two men were charged with disturbing the peace. Police also were investigating whether a nearby shooting was related.
Elton John Adds 15 Dates to Vegas Show
"The Red Piano," singer Elton John's three-year gig at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, is scoring sellouts since it began Feb. 13, leading organizers to add 15 dates to the 2004 run. John's Colosseum deal originally called for 75 shows over three years. Reuters reports the show has grossed $14.5 million from 19 sellouts that drew an audience of 75,276. "The Red Piano" resumes July 23 and ends Aug. 8, with the additional 15 dates running between Oct. 12 and 31. Tickets for the show are priced at $100, $175 and $250.
Actor and Comedian Alan King Dies
Actor and comedian Alan King died Sunday in New York at the age of 76, the AP reports. The Brooklyn-born standup comic was a popular guest on TV comedy and variety shows for decades, and often guest-hosted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. King broke into show business while still in his teens, doing comedy in the Catskills, then moving on to nightclubs. His film career began in the 1950s with small parts and went on to star in Bye Bye Braverman, The Anderson Tapes, Just Tell Me What You Want, Author! Author!, I, the Jury, Lovesick and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He also penned a number of books and produced movies and stage plays.
Marie and Donny Osmond's Mother Dies
Marie and Donny Osmond's mother, Olive Osmond, died Sunday in Provo, Utah, of complications from a massive stroke she suffered more than two years ago. She was 79. Family spokesman Ron Clark told the AP family members were by her bedside. Olive and her husband George had nine children, including Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay, who performed as the Osmond Brothers, producing 34 gold and platinum records in the '60s and '70s. Donny, Marie and Jimmy Osmond later joined them. Then, from 1976-79, Donny and Marie Osmond hosted the The Donny and Marie Show, produced in part by their older brothers. Olive Osmond is survived by her husband, nine children, 55 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Smokey Robinson Markets Soul Food
Fans of Motown legend Smokey Robinson will now be able to "Shop Around"--not for the single, but for gumbo. Reuters reports Smokey Robinson's Foods has introduced its first product, Soul Is in the Bowl Gumbo, to the Chicago market available there through Albertson's subsidiary, Jewel-Osco. Robinson's gumbo is located in the frozen food section and regularly priced at $2.89, with a portion of the company's profits used to further education for minority children. The gumbo hits Southern and Northern California in May with a national rollout planned before the end of the year.
Role Call: DreamWorks Snatches Rights to Boys Rebellion
After 60 Minutes aired a report last week on Michael D'Antonio's book The State Boys Rebellion, DreamWorks paid mid-six figures to secure the rights. The book follows Frederick Boyce and his friends, now in their 60s, who spent their childhoods in the Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded in Massachusetts as part of a government program that locked poor or uneducated children into mental institutions from the early 1900s through the 1970s. The children were neglected, abused and used for scientific experiments as part of the eugenics movement that tried to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society in order to prevent them from reproducing.