Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Snow Screen: 47 Ronin

On Christmas Day you can enjoy no less than 4 major new releases at your local cinema after you've finished a holiday feast or opening presents or going to church or working or relaxing or whatever you're doing.  You've got the latest from Leo Dicaprio and Martin Scorsese, living up 80's excess in The Wolf of Wall Street.  Or you could opt for Raging Bull VS Rocky in Grudge Match.  If seeing old men Stallone and DeNiro trade puns and punches doesn't sound appealing then you can go on a fantasy adventure with Ben Stiller as Walter Mitty.  Or you can check out a Japanese myth retold for the umpteenth time only paid for by American studios.

The story of a band of master less samurai, or ronin, 47 tells the tale of a mysterious half breed teaming up with a driven warrior to avenge the death of their slain master at the hands of a rival lord and his witch powered oracle.  I thought this was going to be a clunky, comic book movie retelling of the old legend but 47 Ronin was a surprisingly serious and straight forward samurai and swords action drama with some unexplained supernatural elements.  While it never rises to the "oh shit!" chaotic crescendo of 13 Assassins, travel the depth of Twilight Samurai, or go West meets East like The Last Samurai; Ronin manages to be an entertaining 2 hour affair and quite a departure for any American studio since every scene but one features a cast of Japanese actors along side co-leading man Keanu Reeves.

Apparently, things weren't quite smooth sailing on this one as first time director Carl Rinsch was handed the reins to a $175 million tent pole with global appeal.  A friend saw a rough cut years ago that clocked in one hour longer and her reaction was not good.  Now, 5 years after the project was announced, the flick is finally hitting screens.  Reviews haven't been kind and with such a crowded market, the prospect of becoming a sleeper hit seems limited.  It's been 10 years since Warner Brothers backed Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai (a worldwide hit in 2003) so it may be a while until you can see another samurai tale in theaters without subtitles.

If you haven't seen 13 Assassins, Netflix that joint!

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