47 Ronin

The legend of the 47 ronin is a long-cherished Japanese story about a group of dishonored samurai who set out on a dangerous quest to avenge the death of their village lord. Technically, their lord was deceived and tricked into killing himself, but as far as they’re concerned, it still counts as murder. And in the Japanese feudal code of samurai conduct, there’s no greater shame than failing to protect and serve your lord and master. Masterless samurai are called ronin, and it sucks to be one. The story is simple enough: The dishonored and banished ronin stage an impossible attack on their enemy’s stronghold to avenge their fallen master and perform ritual suicide when their task is done to regain their honor. The End. It sounds like a great idea for a movie, and it probably would have been in the hands of someone like Kurosawa or Kubrick, but tragically, both were unavailable.

614ronin.box.jpgWith plot embellishments extending far into the realm of the ludicrous and absurd, I can only guess that they were aiming for a hyper-stylized comic book fantasy like 300, and that’s pretty much what you get here. Plausibility takes a backseat to shape-shifting witches, rampaging mythical beasts, and demon warriors with magical weapons. Keanu Reeves notwithstanding, the cast is populated entirely with Japanese actors who slog through their dialogue in extremely broken English. This was doubtlessly done to lend an extra air of credibility, but I find it telling that every set piece is completely fabricated, and not a single frame of footage was shot in Japan.

The 3D picture is a mixed bag; at its best, it sports superb clarity and depth of field. The foreground imagery is consistently sharp and clear, with no halo or ghosting effects, but it’s almost too pristine to look completely natural. Other intermittent shots of exterior landscape and certain close-ups come off as flat as 2D. The 2D picture features excellent picture quality of high-grade digital video. Colors and fleshtones are even and vibrant.

The 5.1-channel DTS-HD Master Audio performs admirably well, as is to be expected from a film of this genre. Charging horses that change direction of path is consistent with the directionality coming out of your speakers. Other flashes of auditory panache include epic sword battles and a pit-fighting sequence among a throng of cheering spectators.

Extras are featured on both the 3D and 2D discs and consist of four deleted scenes and four short featurettes. Digital Copy is also included.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Universal, 2014
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 119 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Carl Rinsch
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano