At the start of the 1700’s, a band of Samurai was left leaderless when their lord, Asano Naganori, was forced to commit seppuku (ritualized suicide) for assaulting a court official, Kira Yoshinaka. Samurai code states that without a lord to follow Samurai become Ronin, wayward, wonders. After almost two years of planning they avenged their fallen leader by killing Kira. In this act of murder they were all required to commit seppuku. This much of the story is known to be largely true, and is considered Japan’s national legend, representing the best concepts of the bushido; honor, loyalty, and respect.
The story has grown over time. It has taken on a flavor of being Japan’s version of “The 300,” a small band that stands against thousands. There were times in Japan’s history that it could not be told outright, so names were changed. Modern recreations have added magic and dragons and amazing feats of daring do. This retelling is no different, throwing in the magic of modern movie making. Some tortured twisting has been done to add a half-breed character, providing a reason for Mr. Reeves to appear in a purely Japanese story.
Overall, it is well done. This movie isn’t for everyone, as it maintains a bit of a Japanese flavor in its style and pace, at times focusing on the ritual of Japanese life and custom, though interwoven with modern day action and visual effects. The direction is good, though there were a few places I would have preferred a wide shot to a face close up. The soundtrack is well done. The special computer effects are fluid and in keeping with the overall style, though at times a little flat. The 3D is good, but there is nothing particularly spectacular about it. It provides the needed depth, but there appears no attempt to really use it or make an artistic statement with it.
All of the actors do a fine job, which leads me to Keanu Reeves. I have a little trouble with him, not in this movie specifically, and not in a bad way. I like him. I don’t know why. I feel as if I had lunch with him, I could perhaps enjoy it. But as an actor, I have not seen his face or body emote since “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” That said, he has been savvy about picking roles that lend themselves to stoic, if not stony, characters. As such, I cannot say that I do not like him in this role. It works for the most part, though his acting is some of the weakest of the entire cast. But I would love to see him stretch himself.