Based on Japan’s epic legend and visually very nice, but at the same time somehow completely flat throughout. The true story this is based on is a fascinating tale of honour, feudal Japan, and the way of the samurai, or Bushido, as the forty seven warriors are forced to become ronin (the Japanese term for a samurai without master) when their lord is ordered to end his life, and they spend the next couple of years planning a reckoning. Here, however, the filmmakers have opted to mix the story in with fantasy elements from mythology, which may have worked but there’s no real skill in the delivery, no real scope or tension to bait the audience with.
Keanu Reeves is the token famous western actor to sell the film with and who had his part deliberately augmented with that in mind, although he is actually pretty good in it – the rest of the cast is comprised of well know actors in Japan, but with that in mind it would have been a much better idea to film the dialogue in Japanese and then subtitle it as their delivery of the English lines leaves a lot to be desired and arrives, at times, painfully slowly. Where the film is successful, is in painting a wonderfully rich image of eighteenth century Japan with fairly grandiose sets and the costume department in particular outdoing themselves (although they too have not always pinioned themselves with historical accuracy). The fighting though, is nowhere near as good as in the likes of ‘13 Assassins’ (10) and there is a very average feel to what had the potential to be very spectacular indeed. It may still satisfy though, if you just happen to be in the mood for a bit of light fantasy action.