"The future holds nothing else but confrontation." That's the first line of Public Enemy's song "Lost at Birth," and it fits this episode to a T. There are plenty of standoffs and staredowns here. There are some clear winners and some clear losers, and then there were some that were waiting to be resolved.
Chief Marshall Art Mullen: He gets to take on Elias Markos (Alan Tudyk), a clean-up man for the Detroit Mob, twice. The first time, he's in a restaurant with Wynn Duffy and Ethan Picker (John Kapelos) and just manages to avert a shootout, since Markos wants to kill Picker. The second time is in a warehouse, when he has Raylan Givens as backup. Despite Marcos having a Tommy Gun and several tins of ammo, Givens is able to shoot him. Added bonus: He's able to get Theo Tonin (Adam Arkin), the head of the Detroit Mob. This is a nice gift for his impeding retirement.
Johnny Crowder: For now. He looks to be in the catbird's seat after turning the tables on his cousin Boyd and Hot Rod Dunham. Who knows how long his victory will last before he has vengeance exacted on him by Boyd?.
Lee Paxton: First he gets set up by Lieutenant Nick Mooney for burning bodies at his funeral home to make money, and then Boyd stages his suicide by making him hold his own gun and shooting him to begin the episode.
Canadian Goon: Poor Will Sasso. He was just talking up how much he enjoyed acting on this show, and now his character gets shot by Markos at the beginning of the episode.
Mooney: He gets plugged by an associate of Boyd's who has the black lung and wouldn't live to see trial.
Mara Paxton (Karolina Wydra): After her husband's death and witnessing Mooney's murder, she learns that Boyd was giving her ransom money to the family of his soon-to-be-deceased hitman and was also told in no uncertain terms to leave Harlan and never come back.
Baptiste: He gets turned into "Haitian Hamburger" by Danny Crowe at the end of the episode after confronting him about his behavior towards his other family member. Tough break for Edi Gathegi. His character looks like a real badass for the first few episodes... and then he gets shot by a raging redneck.
Dunham: Johnny gets his own men to turn on him after arranging to turn Johnny over to Boyd. The scene ends with several guns pointed at him, though I'm not sure if they are discharged or not.
Boyd Crowder: Boyd winds up on the winning side with Paxton, Mooney, and Mara, though he loses with getting Ava free and it's unclear what will happen after he refused to give Darryl the cut of the money.
Darryl Crowe Jr. (Michael Rapaport) - His brother Danny is a loose cannon, recklessly killing Baptiste and he's got Boyd angry at him now. Let's not count on the Florida Crowe clan staying in Harlan for more than this season.
Givens: He gets Picker to give up Markos' whereabouts but who knows where his confession to Mullen at the end will lead?
Four people dead, five if Dunham does wind up getting lead deposited in him. That's mild compared to some other episodes, though.
Is Ava Crowder Free?
The hashtag #FreeAva was trending last night. Sadly, it was to no avail, as the episode sees her framed for shanking the same guard who almost raped her last week. She gets sent off to the State Penitentiary, triggering Boyd's fury to the extent that he needs to be held back by several guards upon learning of this.
-Boyd is going to rain hell down on the people that sent Ava back into prison. He was just so evil in the way he killed Paxton and Mooney and then calmly sat with Mara while she still had Mooney's blood on her and issued his ultimatum. You can't spell "High Body Count" without "Boyd."
-Things are REALLY going to get bad with Mullen and Givens. Next week's preview shows the older chief slugging his younger deputy.
-I'm still puzzling out what is going on in the Crowe clan. Baptiste's death further muddies matters and it's going to be interesting to see what sort of infighting goes on.
Was It a Good Episode?
Considering that I found my head spinning several times due to all the twists and turns, I would definitely say so. The only disappointments include that Gathegi, Sasso, Tudyk all expiring earlier than I would have liked. This week's is a bloody episode and a lot of things get pushed forward at a seemingly earlier time in the season. This is a show that unwinds at its own pace, with most of the action occurring later in the season. Considering that there's only one more season after this one, I'd predict that it's going to be a hell of a ride.
The State of Raylan
He's growing up. Raylan seems to man up at the end of the episode by apparently telling Mullen that he had been the one on the airport tarmac. The next step will be for him to spend some time with his daughter. Will this maturation be too late for the lawman, who has been living by the seat of his pants for far too long?
"Is this because I stuck my finger up your butt last time?" A hooker asking Dewey Crowe why he was waxing philosophical.
"You want to swap?" One hooker to the other after Dewey had given them a couple of crappy trinkets that reminded him of his ties with the Crowe clan in Florida.
"I've been called many things, but 'inarticulate' ain't one of them." Boyd to Darryl Crowe Jr.
"I want you to think about something. The only reason you're in the position to blackmail me is because of the things I do... that you witnessed me do." Givens in a not-so-subtle threat to Picker to get him to give up Markos' address.
"You could do the old thing." Wendy Crowe (Alicia Witt) to her brother Darryl about how to raise money. Now let's find out what that "old thing" is.
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.
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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.