If you’re too late to get under the mistletoe and need to take your mind off the credit card bills you’ve racked up, director Carl Rinsch’s “47 Ronin” is sure to remind you what Christmas is all about: love, deception, swords, CG and, of course, ritual suicide. The deception comes in before you even step into the theater with the posters and trailers leading you to believe that Keanu Reeves is the star, but I guess that’s another story.
“47 Ronin” is based on a legend of 47 rogue samurai who avenge their fallen master. In this version, the story begins as a tween half-breed demon Kai (and he’s often reminded of it) is found fleeing from an unknown force in the forest. Despite his assistant Oishi’s (Hiroyuki Sanada) insistence on killing the exhausted Kai, Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) brings him back to the village. Although Asano treats Kai (played as an adult by Reeves) with respect, the rest of the village treats him like a second-class citizen.
Kai’s humble life of servitude (and secretly sharing glances with Asano’s daughter Mika, played by Kou Shibasaki) is interrupted when Shogun Tsunayoshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and his delegation come to visit. He brings with him the maniacal Lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano), who, along with a beautiful witch (Rinko Kikuchi), concoct a scheme to trick Asano into attacking an unarmed Kira, a crime punishable by execution or a more honorable ritual suicide called seppuku. Adding insult to injury, the Shogun allows Mika a year of mourning, at which time she must marry Kira.
No sooner does the Shogun leave town does Kira makes his presence known by banishing the samurai, selling Kai into slavery and setting out to mentally and physically destroy Oishi. Before you can say “Didn’t this happen in ‘300‘?” Oishi sets out to get the old band of samurai back together for one last battle to avenge his fallen master and free Mika from Kira’s clutches. He’s outnumbered, outgunned… I mean, outsworded, and his only chance is reuniting with the man he looked down upon, Kai.