47 Ronin is a film that’s kind of hard to judge, and not just because it arrives on our shores with FAILURE stamped all over it.
The film cost a fortune to make, with a budget exceeding $170 million and a shooting schedule that was repeatedly extended for extensive reshoots, yet the effects are shockingly, suspiciously cheap and unconvincing, even primitive. 47 Ronin has a Lord Of The Rings special-effects budget and the homemade quality of an Asylum-produced Lord Of The Rings knock-off, if not the cheeseball low-budget charm.
But the film’s central problem is Reeves. Even after the Matrix trilogy and Man Of Tai Chi, Reeves still seems weirdly out of place in this genre, despite his impressive fighting skills and clear reverence for the form. He’s at least 10 years too old and a thousand times too 21st-century American to be convincing. Reeves’ performance as the glowering heavy in Man Of Tai Chi was at least good for a guilty laugh, but he’s simply no fun here. Part Lord Of The Rings knock-off, part non-starting fantastical take on a beloved Japanese legend, and part misguided Keanu Reeves martial-arts vehicle, 47 Ronin serves many masters and none of them well, particularly those sleepy, luckless souls in the audience. Who will avenge their injustice at the filmmakers’ hands?