A feudal fantasia set in Japan, 47 Ronin is an odd mix of stiff and sumptuous. Keanu Reeves stars as a lowly half-breed wild child who grows up to have cool hair and to avenge the death of his master.
He undertakes his quest along with a posse of 47 disgraced samurai warriors. The story of their seemingly suicidal assault on a warlord's redoubt is a familiar piece of Japanese folklore.
47 Ronin adds on a few mystical accessories, including a shape-shifting witch, a ferocious, floating dragon, and what looks very much like a cave troll from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Purely as spectacle, the film is colorful and impressive, with lavish costuming and set design. And the action scenes are often exciting. It's what you'd get if you took one of those old Saturday-afternoon kung fu flicks and showered it with money and CGI enhancements.
But there's no emotional contact between any of the characters. And director Carl Rinsch, a relative newcomer, sets out this tale with such stubborn slowness and solemnity it unintentionally takes on an air of smugness.
The role of the laconic warrior is well-suited to Reeves' narrow skill set. He's joined by a distinguished Japanese cast, including Kô Shibasaki, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Tadanobu Asano.
47 Ronin is admirably devoted to its material, but it's almost tedious to watch.
47 Ronin ** (Out of four stars)
Directed by Carl Rinsch. With Keanu Reeves, Kô Shibasaki, Hiroyuki Sanada, and Tadanobu Asano. Distributed by Universal.
Running time: 1 hour, 59 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (violence, adult themes)
Playing at: area theaters