’47 Ronin’ Review

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Dir:  Carl Rinsch

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ko Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano and Rinko Kikuchi

Synopsis: A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*

 

The movie tells the legend, based on real events (most likely with some liberties), about 47 loyal samuri who become ronins –masterless – when their leader is forced to commit ritual suicide after he’s accused of attacking a Lord named Kira.  It’s one of the most well known legends in Japan and is one of the most beloved stories about vengeance and showing the virtues of the Bushido code.  Needless to say, the ronin go to avenge their lord.

The ad campaign stresses two things: Keanu Reeves and fantasy.  But don’t be fooled, despite Keanu being one of the main characters, this movie also belongs to Hiroyuki Sanada (The Wolverine) who plays Oishi.  Oishi is second-in-command to Lord Asano and Sanada gives a great performance ranging from honorable soldier to a lost and broken man to a man that will do anything for his men.

Reeves plays Kia, a “half-breed” and as a child was found by Lord Asano (Min Tanaka) in the forest.  Despite claims that taking him in was a bad idea he took him in.  As Kia grew up he then started to develop a relationship with Asano’s daughter Mika.  But their love can never happen because of Kia’s social status. Reeves does his usual thing acting wise so there’s nothing really to say about him.

The other notable face is Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim) who doesn’t have a name and is only referred to as The Witch.  She helps our other villain Lord Kira played by Tadanobu Asano (Thor, Ichi the Killer) who is trying to take over the land and then takes Mika (Ko Shibasaki) as his bride.

Kira taking Mika really pushes the story and she serves (next to the revenge aspect) as the damsel in distress, although she isn’t entirely helpless. She also serves as the romantic arc for her character and Kia, which is the only real reason Kia decides to go along on the mission despite knowing the now-ronins never accepted him in the first place.

Getting past the cast, 47 Ronin is beautiful to look at.  The costumes and practical sets are very detailed and every time something new is shown your eye goes right to it.  The other great part of the movie is the action.  Being a samurai movie you know there is bound to be great swordplay and in truth there is.  The final attack on Kira’s palace is one of the better set-pieces and sequences.  Everything that was built from the moment our samurais become ronins pays off.

The ending I know will have some people questioning but personally I found it bold. And bold in the sense that I’m glad they didn’t try to change anything.

All in all, 47 Ronin is a movie off a tale of vengeance, love and honor.  Although not perfect the movie is a lot of fun and has great action sequence to please anyone that watches it.

 

47 Ronin

4 out of 5

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Review

Dir: Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow)

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Mann, Peter Stormare

Story: In this spin on the fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel are now bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.

 

Have you ever thought about what happened to Hansel and Gretel after they escaped the evil witch’s gingerbread house? Maybe, I know I have, and Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola did as well, and in his world the pair grew up to be witch hunters, complete with leather and some pretty cool weapons.

 

The beginning of the movie shows the story we know, at least to some point. Hansel and Gretel are lead into the woods by their father and end up in the infamous witch house. They end up in a little fight with their first witch and shove her into an oven that starts a cool animated opening sequence that shows what they’ve done in their hunting. The movie then picks up 15 years later, where the grown-up pair (played by Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton) has been bought to a mountain village to deal with missing children. Along the way they meet the witch responsible, Muriel (Janssen) who has a greater plan then just kidnapping kids and the Sheriff of the town (Stormare) who doesn’t like Hansel and Gretel.

 

Now before I get more into my review I want to say this. I know the idea seems silly to some and I’m not saying the movie is perfect either. The movie has its moments where it does seem maybe a little cookie cutter and predicable at some points but it’s still a lot of fun to watch. While the trailers make the movie seem like a pure action thriller, there is a lot of humor. Of course this is probably with the help of Wirkola who has managed to bring some not over the top or spoof humor, but well timed humor that makes sense to the movie. The action is also a lot gorier and brutal than you may expect, again something Wirkola brings to the table. The movie does fall into CG blood in areas but most of the work, makeup wise, looks particle.

 

Performance wise, Renner and Arterton give great performances when they are bonding as siblings and not hunting. The first time we actually see them they are addressing a large crowd and I don’t know what it was but Renner’s speech felt a little awkward to watch. When there not together they have some brief moments to shine, both eventually becoming love affections to characters. Renner to a woman he saved from being burned earlier in the movie (Viitala) and Arterton to a Ben (Mann) who wants to become a witch hunter and is maybe a little too obsessed with them.

 

The weak link in the movie is unfortunately Famke Janssen. She brings a weird accent to her character and just gives a bad performance (she has said in a past interview that she took a break from acting before doing this to pay for a mortgage after running out of money while working on her directorial debut).

 

All in all, Hansel & Gretel is cheesy at times but has some really fun moments. The movie does a possible set-up for a possible franchise or sequel, which will depend on the box office haul of course. However, that seems unlikely anyway since they delayed the movie almost a year.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

3.5 out of 5

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