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 Killing still has yet to be renewed for a third season by AMC, but even so, a whole roster of new characters has just hit the web for the not-yet-official season. And when we say new, we mean it. AMC is yet to respond to Hollywood.com's request for comment, but check out the never-before-seen people who Linden and Holder will deal with if/when the show gets a Season 3:
Tom Seward is a thirty-something Neanderthal on death row for the murder of his wife. In what seems likely to be his last month on earth, he takes a (perhaps ill-advised) stroll down memory lane, tripping on the secrets he’s left behind like a trail of bloody bread crumbs.
Danette Lutz, in her late 30s, is probably the worst mother since Mo’Nique in Precious. How bad is she? She could easily forget she even is a mother until her 15-year-old, Kallie, goes missing.
Bullet is a 16-year-old tough guy who looks out for all the local street girls. But there’s more to him than meets the eye: Most significantly, he’s… a she.
Alton Singleterry is a Machiavellian young gangbanger who seems to think that death row is party to which he can RSVP "no".
Ed Skinner is Linden’s old partner, a middle-aged Dudley Do-Right whose record is spotless, save for a brief extramarital fling with a co-worker. (Could that co-worker have been Linden? Hmm… )
Tiny is the underage female hooker to whom Bullet’s heart belongs. The only trouble is (well, the only trouble aside from her being an underage hooker!), Tiny’s crazy about someone else.
Twitch is yet another JV hooker, a wannabe star with a rap sheet that’s longer than he is tall.
Production on Season 3 is set to begin on February 25... that is, if AMC finally decides to gives it the go-ahead. What are they waiting for? And who do you think will play the new faces?
[Photo Credit: AMC]
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