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A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.

Review by Louise Keller:
Revenge, witchcraft and forbidden love swirl together like a menacing spell in this retelling of the 18th century Japanese tale about honour. First time director Carl Rinsch has created a bewitching visual canvas with traditional costumes, cherry blossoms and ornate architecture with the dark edge of sorcery, demons and curses, but there's a mish-mash feel about the film.

The script by Chris Morgan (Fast & Furious franchise) and Hossein Amini (Drive, Snow White & The Huntsman), has introduced and placed Keanu Reeves' half-breed changeling character front and centre to the tale - no doubt to capitalise on the Matrix star's box office pulling power. As a result, there is a contrivance about the film. The film makers have cast their own illusion of smoke and mirrors and despite the cinematic spectacle that has the power to engage, the juxtaposition of Reeves' character grates, coupled with stilted dialogue and an overlong running time.

It all begins with a clumsy prologue whose voice-over explains the story's premise and context in feudal Japan when a samurai becomes a ronin if he fails to protect his master. Reeves' character Kai is the outsider born to an English sailor and a peasant girl, brought up by demons and taken under the wing of Min Tanaka's Lord Asano. Romance comes in the shape of Lord Asano's beautiful daughter Mika (Ko Shibasaki); theirs is an impossible and forbidden love, forming the emotional heart of the story.

Japanese star Hiroyuki Sanada (recently seen in The Railway Man) effectively plays Ôishi, the film's heroic central character who, as the disgraced former samurai, leads his men in a selfless quest. He is the true star of the film but in Japan, where his name counts for something, audiences are unlikely to embrace the tale.

The manipulative, evil witch takes various forms. Striking as a white fox with one brown and one blue eye, and unforgettable as a beautiful concubine with tentacle-like hair (played by Rinko Kikuchi). The scenes in which she morphs into a fantasy dragon-esque creature that floats like a supple, flying Isadora scarf are bewitching.

Much of the exposition relies on the mood created and a sombre orchestral soundtrack with an accent on strings plays its part. The action is well directed and the lead up to the climactic sequence in which the 47 ronin (their pact sealed in blood) make a surprise (and theatrical) attack during the arranged marriage of Mika to Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), the man who was responsible for her father's death.

Reeves, who has done little of note since his Matrix days, when red and blue pills were all the rage, brings stillness to the screen, but film buffs familiar with the 241 minute Japanese black and white film directed by Kenji Mizoguchi (1947), may opt to give this Hollywood version the flick.

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47 RONIN 3D (M)
(US, 2013)

CAST: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi, Masayoshi Hanada, Hiroshi Sogabe, Takato Yonemoto, Hiroshi Yamada

PRODUCER: Pamela Abdy, Eric McLeod, Scott Stuber

DIRECTOR: Carl Rinsch

SCRIPT: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini


MUSIC: Ilan Eshkeri


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 16, 2014

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