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.
The 72 year old, who has snapped stars including Paul Weller, Sadie Frost and Dizzee Rascal, was approached to produce a picture feature for GQ magazine showing the life of troops from the U.K.
He took on the assignment and headed out to Afghanistan - and although he's full of praise for the soldiers' courage, Bailey is praying his two young sons, Fenton and Sacha, decide against joining the army.
The photographer says, "They could be going there and getting destroyed by IEDs (improvised explosive devices), shot by snipers or burnt in a helicopter."
Remember the slacker Pegg hilariously played in Shaun of the Dead? Dennis Doyle is just as much of a loser. But instead of fighting zombies Dennis’ engaged in a battle of the bulge. Five years after leaving a pregnant Libby (Thandie Newton) at the altar Dennis is out of shape out of money and out of his ex-fiancée’s good graces. Libby’s now dating Whit (Hank Azaria) an American businessman who’s everything Dennis isn’t. “He’s handsome well-off friendly ” we’re told several times. Threatened by Whit’s presence in the lives of Libby and son Jake (Matthew Fenton) Dennis finally gets his butt out of bed when he decides to compete against Whit in a charity marathon. Dennis can barely sprint to the bus stop and back and he’s only got a month to get fit. But he’s convinced running the marathon will allow him to win back Libby and make him look like a hero in Jake’s eyes. And so Dennis makes like every underdog we’ve come to know and love in his bid to drop the extra pounds run the marathon and recapture Libby’s heart. Too bad this takes him--and Run Fat Boy Run--down the marathon route well traveled. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz proved that Pegg’s damn funny whenever he’s spoofing all things Hollywood with director Edgar Wright. Unfortunately he doesn’t have what it takes to be the next Hugh Grant. Pegg’s mastered the art of slothfulness but he’s ill at ease trying to express genuine emotions or generate some sparks with Newton. Maybe his discomfort stems from the padding he wears around his waist. Still there’s some tenderness to be found in the interaction between Pegg and the affable Fenton. If Schwimmer wanted to distance himself from Friends’ nerdy Ross he should have cast himself as Whit. The problem with Azaria--who looks even more ripped than he did in Along Came Polly--is that he reveals just enough of a hint of insincerity when we first meet Whit to tips us off that will become the “arsehole” Dennis thinks he is from the start. Newton sadly doesn’t have much to do other than to look through Pegg and gaze longingly at Azaria. But Irish comic Dylan Moran as Libby’s scheming cousin and Jake’s pal pretty much runs away with Run Fat Boy Run with his biting wit devil-may-care attitude and frequent flashes of flesh. So Schwimmer’s the latest sitcom star to go all Rob Reiner on us. OK he did try directing during his Friends years. Luckily Run Fat Boy Run represents a significant improvement over 1998’s consigned-to-TV Since You’re Been Gone. Schwimmer keeps things light and breezy but he’s saddled with an uneven script by his Big Nothing co-star Pegg and The State’s Michael Ian Black. Things start off quite flat and unfunny but the film gains much comic impetus when Dennis begins training in earnest. Some of Schwimmer’s directorial touches do seem somewhat gimmicky. Do we really need to see Dennis attempt to crash through an imaginary brick wall when he runs out of energy miles from the marathon finish line? Still Schwimmer does good job of involving us in Dennis’ plight even if the outcome is never in doubt. Unfortunately Pegg and Black never strive to surprise us. How refreshing it would be to discover that Whit is the right man for Libby forcing her to choose between both suitors. But everything you suspect will happen does happen right down to the film’s Rocky-esque ending. Unfortunately like Dennis himself Run Fat Boy Run never tries hard enough until it’s do-or-die time.