Ronin was the name given to disgraced samurai in the days when Japan constitued a collection of warring states.
The difference between them and other feudal societies was a deep rooted sense of honour, which included ceremonial suicide and unflinching loyalty.
This may be hard to comprehend, as are Japanese actors speaking English and an American film star having anything to do with the legend of the 47, which is a Thermopylae 300 courage-above-and-beyond-the-call-of-duty kind of thing.
“To know the story of 47 Ronin is to tell the story of Japan,” informs the unnamed narrator. Well, maybe.
Keanu Reeves’ character is introduced as a halfbreed child – English sailor father, Japanese peasant mother – who is adopted by a forest clan and grows up learning special fighting skills.
Later, he meets the daughter of the big cheese and they fall secretly and dangerously in love.
The myth, if that is what this is, tells of 47 Ronins who take on the might of the shogun ruler to revenge the death of their esteemed master.
The odds are the wrong side of impossible, but when the halfbreed is permitted to join them, in order to save his beloved from marrying the shogun’s sadistic son, they even up a bit.
This is director Carl Rinish’s first full-length feature – talk about being flung in at the deep end – and although he’s no Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), he does a pretty good job.
Following CGI fashion, magic monsters of terrifying proportions are provided to entertain the PlayStation crowd.
There are moments of extreme beauty and others of pitiless violence.
The plot is layered in fantasy and fiction, like The Hobbit, and yet retains a powerful idealism.
Reeves is in one of this silent but deadly moods. He doesn’t act. He is.
As an action picture, co-scripted by the Fast & Furious writer, it delivers. As an historical recreation, it’s a lot of nonsense.