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.
Stripping isn't the most obvious apprenticeship for an actor — heck, the Screen Actors Guild doesn’t even recognize the profession. But Channing Tatum, who previously flourished with cheetah-themed thongs in the past, was able to carve a successful movie career that continues to grow. The soon-to-be A-Lister is big enough that this year, he's even put together his own pet project, culling together his pleasantly hedonistic experiences into one magical cinematic experience. The Vow and 21 Jump Street star's latest film, Magic Mike, brings Tatum back to the world of stripping — but don't expect to be a carbon copy of his exotic dancing life. Why? As Tatum puts it: “You just wouldn’t believe it.”
“I only [stripped] for a short amount of time ... All the stuff that really happened, if we tried to put it in there, it just made no sense,” Tatum tells Hollywood.com “You would think we were trying to make stuff up just to make it up.” Channing candidly shed some light on what has to be the most unique film of 2012. The frat-boyish stripper adventure follows an up-and-coming young man (Alex Pettyfer) thrust into this crazy world of dancing, drinking, and women armed with dollar bills. The ladies aside, Magic Mike boasts a solid cast, including True Blood’s Joe Manganiello, Matthew McConaughey, and White Collar’s Matt Bomer. “Magic Mike was a real person, this is not based on him. None of this is factual. Zero factual,” Tatum adds.
So, what is something from Channing’s past that didn’t make it into the movie? “Like eight strippers in the back of a U-Haul van driving up to North Carolina for a stripper convention. In like a moving van… it’s the truth. It’s the weirdest world of existence,” Tatum says.
With a bunch of absolutely shredded male actors in their birthday suits hogging the big screen, the average straight guy might be hesitant about buying a ticket to see this, for lack of a better word, “show.” Tatum looks at it from a different perspective. In fact, if a guy is looking to score with his lady, Magic Mike might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Tatum gave us a few reasons why:
Pump Up Your Chick
“Look, my friends would come up to the show afterwards because they knew all the girls were going to be all crazy, kind of liquored up a little bit and ready to rock," Tatum says. "If they’re smart guys, they’ll go [to the movie]. Either way, I think every straight one of my friends that has seen it, they are like, 'I forgot that it was a stripping movie.' It’s the 50 Shades of Grey Era. Come on guys, let’s just go nuts!"
What else can the world expect from Magic Mike? First off, a solid outing from shirtless veteran Matthew McConaughey. “McConaughey is the best part of the movie to me,” Tatum says. “The movie starts in my mind when McConaughey comes on the screen.” Expect the wit and charm that made Matthew a household name in flicks like Dazed and Confused, not rom-coms like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Okay, there might also be a little male waxing. “I don’t have that much hair, thank God. So, I only had to wax my legs and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever done,” Tatum says cringing. “I will never do it again. I videoed it and I’m going to put it on a talk show soon.” Conan, you listening?
Magic Mike lets it all hang loose and hits theaters nationwide June 29.
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[Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures]
Channing Tatum Magic Mike Interview